Mats Hummels’ return to the national team went better for France than it did for Germany.
The experienced defender was recalled by Germany coach Joachim Löw for the European Championship for his leadership qualities, but he ended up scoring an own-goal Tuesday to give France a 1-0 victory.
“It was a struggle between titans,” France coach Didier Deschamps said.
Hummels was attempting to stop Lucas Hernández’s cross from reaching France forward Kylian Mbappé when he diverted the ball into his own net with his shin in the 20th minute.
“I can’t fault him,” Löw said. “It’s just bad luck. The ball in was fast. Maybe we should have attacked the throw in quicker. But it was hard for Mats to clear the ball.”
There were chances at both ends, but France looked more likely to score while Germany squandered opportunities.
İlkay Gündoğan should have scored in the first half but couldn’t direct his shot on target.
France had two goals called back for offside in the second half. Mbappé sent a curling shot inside the far post midway through the half and then set up Karim Benzema for another late in the match.
Benzema was playing in his first competitive game for France since a World Cup quarterfinal loss to Germany in 2014.
Mbappé also had a penalty appeal waved off in between the offside goals — Hummels had timed his tackle perfectly when the 22-year-old Frenchman would have been through on goal.
Germany had never previously lost an opening game in the group stage at the European Championship.
Löw started with the same lineup from the 7-1 rout of Latvia in Germany’s final warm-up game, but his team had no answer to Paul Pogba, who disrupted the team’s buildup play.
“It was important to start with a win. We were playing Germany, they really riled us. But we wanted this win above all,” said Pogba, who also provided incisive passes for France’s fearsome forward trio of Mbappé, Benzema and Antoine Griezmann.
Löw, who is stepping down after the tournament, sent on forwards Leroy Sané and Timo Werner late in the match, and then Kevin Volland as a last resort, but none could make a difference.
“We threw everything into it and fought to the end,” Löw said. “We were just missing the ability to break through in the final third.”
Germany’s next coach, Hansi Flick, was among the 14,000 or so spectators in attendance amid strict measures against the coronavirus.
Before the match started, a Greenpeace protestor parachuted into the stadium. UEFA said there were some injuries.
Germany next faces Portugal, which defeated Hungary 3-0 with two record-setting goals from Cristiano Ronaldo. France will play the Hungarians in Budapest.
“We have to look forward,” Germany midfielder Toni Kroos said. “When you lose the first game and you have three group games, there’s a lot of pressure. We don’t need to talk about it.”