France and Germany usually play each other in the latter stages of major soccer tournaments.
Not this time.
The teams will meet in the group stage of a European Championship or World Cup for the first time on Tuesday when they open their Euro 2020 campaigns in Munich.
Their last match at a major tournament came in the Euro 2016 semifinals. Antoine Griezmann scored twice for France in the 2-0 victory over then-World Cup champion Germany in Marseille.
Germany has never really recovered, and though the French lost to Portugal in the final five years ago, they went on to win the World Cup two years later.
Remarkably, no player in Germany’s current squad has ever scored in a European Championship match. Thomas Müller, who has played 11 tournament games, missed a penalty in the 2016 quarterfinal shootout win over Italy.
German hopes this time are pinned on a good start in Munich to set the team up for success in Joachim Löw’s last tournament as coach after 15 years in charge.
Germany will also face European champion Portugal on June 19, four days before its last game in Group F against Hungary. The Germans will play all three group games in Munich, where one of the tournament’s quarterfinal matches will take place on July 2.
France plays Hungary on June 19 in Budapest, and stays in the city to face Portugal on June 23.
Löw — or “Jogi,” as he’s affectionately known — decided to step down after the tournament to let someone else lead the shakeup he started after Germany’s failed World Cup campaign in 2018. His former assistant, Hansi Flick, will oversee qualifying for next year’s World Cup in Qatar.
Löw recalled the experienced Müller and Mats Hummels for this year’s competition and their return appears to have had the desired effect. Germany looked solid in a 1-1 draw against Denmark and then filled up on confidence with a 7-1 rout of Latvia, when seven different players scored.
The goal conceded could prove to have been more valuable than those scored, however.
“These are situations, moments, not paying attention, not alert,” Löw said. “Our opponents will punish exactly that. We have to keep our concentration high for 90 minutes in every situation. There’s definitely room for improvement there.”
France’s fearsome front three of Griezmann, Kylian Mbappé and Karim Benzema — the latter recalled by Deschamps after an almost six-year absence — will be far more likely to capitalize on any German lapses in defense.
The 33-year-old Benzema has recovered from an injury picked up in France’s 3-0 warm-up win over Bulgaria on June 8. He made his comeback in a 3-0 win over Wales four days before that, when he had a penalty saved and hit the post. Griezmann has also recovered from a minor injury.
France is bidding to become the first country to twice hold both the European and World Cup titles at the same time. France coach Didier Deschamps won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 as a player and could repeat the feat as coach.
Apart from France, only West Germany and Spain have held both titles at the same time.
Ciarán Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP