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France returned to the field for the first time since winning the World Cup, and it was the one player who started Thursday that didn't play in Russia that made the difference in the opener to the new UEFA Nations League.

Alphonse Areola, starting in goal for the injured Hugo Lloris, made a series of sensational saves in the second half and made six total, keeping 2014 world champion Germany at bay in a 0-0 draw at Bayern Munich's Allianz Arena.

The new tournament is designed to replace friendlies with more competitive matches while grouping teams of similar ranking with one another and features four "leagues" within the competition, with room for promotion and relegation between them. France and Germany headline League A's first of four three-team groups, along with the Netherlands, and they entered the match off polar-opposite summers.

Germany flopped in its World Cup title defense, failing to make it out of the group stage for the first time ever, while France powered its way to a second world title, and first in 20 years. Both sides began the road to Euro 2020–and the first Nations League title–against one another and shared the point.

France didn't stray at all from what worked in Russia, with manager Didier Deschamps trotting out the same lineup that started the final vs. Croatia, save for at goalkeeper.

The match started out with an early scare for France, as right back Benjamin Pavard, who scored the goal of the tournament at the World Cup, was inadvertently stepped on by surging Germany left back Antonio Rudiger. It came as Pavard went into a sliding challenge to prevent a cross in the fourth minute. Rudiger's studs came down on Pavard's chest, but the Frenchman only required a few moments off the field before returning to action.

Bruh 😳

— B/R Football (@brfootball) September 6, 2018

France did little in the attack until the 10th minute, when left back Lucas Hernandez was sprung forward by an Olivier Giroud flick. It set up Les Bleus for a dangerous free kick from the left, but Antoine Griezmann's curling ball was easily cleared.

The first chance on goal came in the 18th minute from Germany. Timo Werner received a cross, cut into the box on the left-hand side and put a shot on frame, only for Areola to get down and smother it.

France's first true chance came in the 36th chance on a header from Giroud, who failed to score at the World Cup despite playing a vital role. Manuel Neuer made the impressive diving stop, though, to keep the match scoreless.

(35') La mejor y unica llegada de Francia...

Olivier Giroud disparo de cabeza desde el centro del área @DFB_Team_ES vs @equipedefrance

🇩🇪🆚🇫🇷 #NationsLeague

En VIVO 🔴👉

— Univision Deportes (@UnivisionSports) September 6, 2018

Five minutes later, France tested Neuer again, this time off a free kick. Kylian Mbappe bent a 22-yard ball over the wall, but it wasn't too much trouble for the Bayern Munich netminder, who made the comfortable catch.

France came within inches just before halftime, again through Giroud, whose backheel flick trickled just wide of the far post and just out of the reach of an on-rushing Griezmann, capping a scoreless opening 45 minutes.

Olivier Giroud came *thisclose* to giving France the lead vs. Germany in sensational fashion (via @UnivisionSports)

— Planet Fútbol (@si_soccer) September 6, 2018

France began the second half the same way it ended the first. Less than five minutes in, Griezmann carved out a great look at goal, cutting in left from the right side and firing at Neuer, who parried the initial save but covered the rebound.

(49') GRIEEEEZMAAAAN @antogriezmann pone a bailar a Alemania @DFB_Team_ES vs @equipedefrance

🇩🇪🆚🇫🇷 #NationsLeague

En VIVO 🔴👉

— Univision Deportes (@UnivisionSports) September 6, 2018

Griezmann forced another save from Neuer in the 64th minute, after taking a wonderful short backheel pass from Paul Pogba and firing a rocket on target.

On the other end, Germany nearly struck for one of its own. Marco Reus put a first-time chance on frame, but Areola made a sensational, acrobatic save to tip it out for a corner. Areola came up big again in the 72nd minute, with Mats Hummels ripping a low blast at goal, only for the PSG goalkeeper to make another diving stop.

(71') AREOLA 😱

Como para no extrañar a Lloris, el arquero 'galo' sigue en plan GRANDE.@DFB_Team_ES 0-0 @equipedefrance#NationsLeague

— Univision Deportes (@UnivisionSports) September 6, 2018

Areola was called into action again two minutes later, when Thomas Muller appeared to chip a cross forward, only for it to be goal-bound. Areola tipped it over the bar for another corner, and on the ensuing set piece, Areola again made a reflexive save, denying Matthias Ginter's point-blank header.

(74') No sé por cuánto tiempo pueda seguir así, pero Areola está sacando TODO LO QUE ALEMANIA LE MANDA. 👏@DFB_Team_ES 0-0 @equipedefrance#NationsLeague

— Univision Deportes (@UnivisionSports) September 6, 2018

(75') Aguas, @gianluigibuffon, Areola quiere tu puesto otra vez y SE LO ESTÁ GANANDO.

El arquero del @PSG_inside está dando un juego digno del CAMPEÓN DEL MUNDO.@DFB_Team_ES 0-0 @equipedefrance#NationsLeague

— Univision Deportes (@UnivisionSports) September 6, 2018

Neither side was able to carve out a winner after that, settling for the draw to open the competition. It marks the second straight draw between the two sides, with the last coming in a November 2017 friendly.

Here were the lineups for both sides:

These eleven men will kick-start our #NationsLeague journey 📋 #GERFRA 🇩🇪🇫🇷 #DieMannschaft

— Germany (@DFB_Team_EN) September 6, 2018

La composition de l’Equipe de France ! #ALLFRA #FiersdetreBleus

— Equipe de France ⭐⭐ (@equipedefrance) September 6, 2018

France closes its international window by playing the Netherlands in another Nations League match on Sunday, while Germany takes on Peru in a friendly, also on Sunday. 

Source :

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