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POST TIME: 8 September, 2018 00:00 00 AM
Areola spares France blushes
AFP

Areola spares France blushes

France’s forward Kylian Mbappe (C) vies with Germany’s defender Antonio Ruediger (R) during the UEFA Nations League match at the Allianz Arena in Munich on Thursday. AFP PHOTO

AFP, MUNICH: Goalkeeper Alphonse Areola spared his side’s blushes with a string of fine second-half saves as France battled to a 0-0 draw with Germany in their Nations League opener on Thursday.

While France took to the field for the first time as newly-crowned world champions, Germany were looking to rebuild after a disastrous World Cup campaign.

“It was a good first step today. It was about showing people that we aren’t just pulling on the national team shirt as if it were a training bib,” Thomas Mueller told ZDF.

“It was about regaining the values and the credit that we have earned over the last ten years, and which we lost at the World Cup.”

After a conservative first-half performance, Germany upped the ante in the final 30 minutes of the game, but were repeatedly denied by Areola, France’s third-choice goalkeeper standing in for the injured Hugo Lloris and Steve Mandanda.

“We had three or four good chances which Areola saved really well,” Germany defender Mats Hummels said.

““We wanted to focus more on defensive stability, and we had a good balance today between defence and attack.”

After a painful World Cup post-mortem, Joachim Loew had promised a greater focus on defensive stability, and the Germany coach would have been happy after 20 minutes as his side kept France away from goal at the Allianz Arena.

“Today was about staying stable at the back and waiting for the chances to come at the other end,” Loew told ZDF. “I think that worked out well.”

Germany, though, initially enjoyed little success at the other end. Timo Werner, who looked dangerous switching between the left and right flanks early on, was the first player from either side to unleash a shot, as he tested Areola on 17 minutes.

Yet it was France who had the best chance of the first half, ten minutes before half-time, as an Olivier Giroud header sent Manuel Neuer scrambling across his goal to beat the ball away.

France continued to threaten after the break, Antoine Griezmann forcing one save from Neuer in the 49th minute, and another in the 64th.

As the rain began to fall heavily on Munich, the final half hour belonged to Germany, who, urged on by the home crowd, created several chances but were repeatedly denied by the Paris Saint-Germain and France goalkeeper.

First, Thomas Mueller linked up elegantly with Marco Reus, whose curling shot was pushed away by a flying Areola.

The French goalkeeper was called into action again moments later, denying a ferocious shot from Mats Hummels as Germany swept forward on the break.

There was no time for Areola to catch his breath, however. Having turned Mueller’s looping ball over the bar, the PSG number one then pulled off a marvellous, one-handed stop from the resulting corner to deny Matthias Ginter.