Germany v France Thursday September 6, 19:45 Live on Sky Sports
After summer of discontent, Löw needs a response
It's a rare thing in football that a coach can admit he got his approach to a major tournament complete and utterly wrong, and yet can not only survive but look forward to seeing out a new long-term deal.
It's rare that a football association can make a series of misjudgements about matters on and off the pitch, some of which exacerbated a situation that saw one of that nation's most talented players walk away from international football, and yet no-one loses their position.
And yet here Germany are, building for Euro 2020 with coach Joachim Löw still at the helm (he admitted he thought he could cruise through the World Cup group stage, and only make tactical tweaks in the knockout phase), and with the DFB structure that supports him still intact after the inept handling of Mesut Ozil. This isn't the forum for that debate, but the effect of the Arsenal midfielder's self-imposed international exile will be felt for some time.
After a disastrous World Cup, Löw has to find a new way forward. The hubris and complacency that cost Die Mannschaft dearly in Russia has to be cast aside, and an incredibly talented group of players must now find a way to perform.
As European football expert Andy Brassell points out in this piece for betting.betfair, the Bayern contingent have made an incredibly strong start to the domestic season, with Thomas Muller particularly impressive in the Bundesliga.
Apart from Ozil, Sami Khedira is the biggest name omitted from the squad for this game. His dreadful World Cup displays did him no favours, and new Bayern signing Leon Goretzka has a great chance to establish himself in midfield in the next few months.
World champions in confident mood
Before the World Cup many people marvelled at the strength-in-depth available to France coach Didier Deschamps, and you could've made a superb team from players he ultimately failed to include in his squad to go to Russia.
The question was whether Deschamps could harness that quality, and he answered that emphatically by winning the trophy. It wasn't always pretty, but he struck the right balance between pragmatism and adventure.
Now the challenge is to win the following European Championship, just as France did after winning the World Cup in 1998. Deschamps has made few changes to his squad, and that's no surprise, as the team he has built can endure for years to come.
France have every reason to think they can succeed in Munich on Thursday night. In their last four friendly visits to Germany, they have won three times and drawn once, and in the Euro 2016 semi-finals France ran out 2-0 winners. The only concern is in the goalkeeping department, as the erratic Alphonse Areola will start in the absence of Hugo Lloris and Steeve Mandanda.
World champions to put flag in the sand
France have only lost one of their last 19 games in all competitions, and their record in Germany is excellent. With the hosts under pressure and Jogi Löw in the midst of a necessary tactical rethink, France look in better shape right now, and I'm surprised to see the world champions trading at 3.00 for the win.
I would use Draw No Bet to back the visitors at 2.12.
Deschamps' approach could determine excitement levels
Because this game marks the start of the Nations League campaign for these two footballing heavyweights, this not the time for experimentation or playing anything less than your strongest team.
Deschamps is unlikely to take the handbrake off here, which leads me to think that Under 2.5 Goals may be the way to go at 1.93. The teams' last two competitive clashes (at WC 2014 and Euro 2016) featured fewer than three goals, but it's not a bet I'm excited about making, because there are individuals who can break open a game with a moment of magic.
Mbappe to unleash his frustration
After his petulant dismissal late on in PSG's Ligue 1 win at Nimes at the weekend, Kylian Mbappe will doubtless be fired up, and despite that aberration the 19-year-old is generally in sparkling form. He has scored four goals in three games for PSG, following his outstanding displays during the World Cup.
Mbappe is 2.96 to score at any time, and that's a bet I'm delighted to make.
On the Germany side of things, Thomas Muller has looked really sharp since the World Cup exit, and he is trading at 2.84 to find the net.