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World champions France, wounded Germany launch inaugural UEFA Nations League

Paris, Tuesday @PeopleSports11

World Cup champions France travel to Joachim Loew’s under-pressure Germany on Thursday in an eye-catching start to the inaugural UEFA Nations League, a competition introduced to replace most international friendlies.

France boss Didier Deschamps has retained the entirety of the squad that triumphed in Russia, with the exception of captain Hugo Lloris and fellow goalkeeper Steve Mandanda, both ruled out by injury.

As just the third man to win the World Cup as both a player and coach, Deschamps is more aware than most of the increased exposure that comes with such success but believes it can serve his team well.

“It’s a galvanising effect to have this title, in terms of confidence. This title of world champion, you have to manage it but it’s not a weight or a burden to carry. It’s quite the opposite,” Deschamps said.

Teenage star Kylian Mbappe, voted the best young player at the World Cup, was sent off for shoving an opponent after he was fouled late in Paris Saint-Germain’s 4-2 win over Nimes at the weekend.

The 19-year-old will discover the length of his ban following a disciplinary hearing on Wednesday, but Deschamps was reluctant to be overly critical of his young striker.

“It’s also human to react. He shouldn’t have done it and he knows that, but I’m not going to make a big issue of it,” said Deschamps, whose side then face the Netherlands on September 9.

Germany, the team France succeeded as World Cup winners, have plenty to prove after a catastrophic group-stage exit that has left Loew fighting to prove he is still the right man for the job.

“We are all being specially observed and put under pressure, I am aware of that. However, I am still convinced of our class and quality. The World Cup squad was very, very good, but we did not perform,” Loew, who has been in charge since 2006, said last week.  -AFP

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