Germany have still not beaten any of the world's leading football nations since their victory in the final match at the old Wembley five years ago, but Jürgen Klinsmann could take heart from his team's performance here last night. His men did not play like a team who have now failed to beat any of the game's major powers in 16 attempts.
Inspired by the return from injury of their captain, Michael Ballack, Germany dominated a match in which a lacklustre French team never got going. Next year's World Cup hosts have been playing down their chances of success, but their display against opponents who have lost only twice in three years showed a promising mixture of attacking flair, sound organisation and resilient defence.
Fifteen goals in five Confederations Cup matches this summer were evidence of Germany's attacking prowess and they showed plenty of enterprise going forward here. With Ballack and Torsten Frings pulling the strings in midfield, Klinsmann's team looked particularly dangerous down the flanks.
In particular, Sebastian Deisler, who is finding his way again after a long period of depression, showed why he is still regarded as a potential saviour of German football. Until he went off at half-time with a gashed ankle following a challenge by William Gallas, the 25-year-old was a constant threat down France's left.
France came back from 2-0 down to beat Costa Rica 3-2 in Martinique on Wednesday, but spending eight hours in a plane travelling across a five-hour time zone was clearly not the best preparation for this game. They remain unbeaten under Raymond Domenech, but a team with an apparent abundance of attacking flair rarely looked capable of breaching a German defence who have been leaking goals. Until they kept out China last month, the Germans had conceded at least two goals in their previous seven matches.
France sorely missed the flair and authority of the injured Zinedine Zidane and Patrick Vieira. Vikash Dhorasoo provided occasional glimpses of his ball skills, but all too often the French midfield were bypassed as the defenders launched a succession of long balls towards Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet. Given the ball on the ground, both might have expected to get the better of Robert Huth and Arne Mertesacker, but the German defenders looked perfectly comfortable in the air.
Apart from one half chance which Henry slipped wide, all the best openings of the first 45 minutes were created by Germany. Deisler made a searing run down the right and pulled the ball back to Lukas Podolski, whose thumping shot from 25 yards just missed the target. Miroslav Klose just failed to get on the end of another Deisler cross, while Florent Malouda's diving challenge on Ballack prevented the German captain from shooting.
Deisler's departure did not disrupt German's rhythm as Bastian Schweinsteiger, his replacement, proved just as much of a threat. Schneider failed to make the most of his clever through ball, while Grégory Coupet made a smart save after Schweinsteiger had been put through by Ballack.
Arsène Wenger had pleaded with Domenech to go easy on Henry, who has just returned from injury, and the Arsenal manager's wish was granted when his former Highbury colleague, Nicolas Anelka, replaced him at the interval. The Fenerbahce striker, who scored against Costa Rica in his first appearance for the national team for three years, made an immediate impact with his willingness to run at defenders.
Two more substitutes, Djibril Cissé and Jérôme Rothen, brought some life to the French in the closing stages as Germany went on the back foot, but the whistles and jeers of a disappointing crowd of less than 60,000 was a suitable verdict on a poor French performance.Reuse content