PARIS (AP) — Thomas Mueller and Sami Khedira scored clinical second-half goals as Germany withstood heavy spells of pressure to come from behind and beat France 2-1 in a friendly on Wednesday.
France took the lead shortly before halftime when Mathieu Valbuena punished some slack Germany defending to head in from close range after Karim Benzema's freekick had struck the crossbar. Mueller scored shortly after the break with a shot into the top corner and Germany then withstood a 20-minute barrage as France pushed for a second goal.
Instead, it went to the Germans as France's left flank was exposed for the second time, allowing Khedira to run through and slip the ball into the bottom corner. France had won four of their past five encounters, with the other one drawn.
"We were very good going forward, we often found space and their goalkeeper made several good saves," France coach Didier Deschamps said. "We need to be more efficient in attack. At the highest level you need to cut out some of the mistakes we made. We were punished for some of our mistakes tonight."
Unified Germany's last win in France was in March 1935and it beat France again two years later. The French lost to both East Germany and West Germany in 1987, but had not been defeated by a German team since.
If Germany was supposed to be weaker without several injured players, it hardly showed as coach Joachim Loew barely missed veteran striker Miroslav Klose, Borussia Dortmund players Mario Goetze and Marco Reus, or midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger.
"It was our first big test of 2013, we played with a lot of rhythm and showed some of the good things that were missing last year," Loew said. In an exciting opening Mesut Oezil went clean through and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris rushed off his line to tackle him as he tried to dribble past the Tottenham goalkeeper. Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker then hit the crossbar with a glancing header.
"Oezil has been excellent for club and country in the last two or three years," Loew said. "Everything he did was good, whether it was his passing or his movement he was excellent tonight." Germany caused problems down both flanks as they started more strongly, with France more threatening on the counterattack.
"Oezil was causing us problems because he was moving in between our lines," Deschamps said. "I told my players to push up a bit more and sometimes we did that a bit too much and they pierced through us."
Franck Ribery beat Mertersacker for sheer pace, before pulling the ball back to Benzema, who tried to get it out of his feet before Valbuena took it off him and hit a fierce shot just over in the 20th minute.
Shortly after, Valbuena released Benzema with a looping pass and the Real Madrid striker struggled to get the ball under control with three defenders closing in on him. He finally got a shot away but it was too close to keeper Rene Adler, who palmed it away.
Benzema nearly put France ahead with a delightfully curled free kick that beat Adler and bounced off the crossbar. Germany reacted slowly to the threat as midfielder Moussa Sissoko headed the ball back across goal and Valbuena — by far the shortest player on the field — sneaked between the taller Germans to nod home for his second goal in as many games after netting away to Italy in November.
"It's a nice touch," Valbuena said. "When you're small you can still score with your head." Germany's equalizer came shortly after halftime and was superbly taken by Mueller. France midfielder Etienne Capoue lost the ball in midfield, Ilkay Guendogan collected it and played Mueller in behind the defense. He advanced into the area and coolly clipped the ball over Lloris's shoulder.
With just over an hour played, left back Patrice Evra whipped in a cross and Benzema — who gained in sharpness as the match went on — just failed to get there ahead of Adler. France then took complete control of the game and Valbuena went close with a curling effort after swapping passes with Valbuena. Ribery then poked the ball wide after making a run to the near post to collect Benzema's low pass from the left.
Benzema latched on to a loose ball in the area in the 73rd and drove in a low shot that Mueller blocked as France camped in Germany's half. France's wastefulness was the opposite of Germany's efficiency, and Germany again split France's left side open — again exposing Evra's slack marking — and Khedira ran through to poke the ball under Lloris' body with the outside of his boot.
Ribery, one of the best players in the Bundesliga this season, had an excellent game. With moments remaining, he charged into the penalty area on a dynamic run and drew a smart save from Adler. But it was not France's night and Mats Hummels made a superb block tackle to deny Benzema with the last kick of the game. Benzema has not scored in his past 10 internationals.
"He needs a goal to be free again," Deschamps said. "Every striker needs that goal to get going again." Germany conceded a lot of goals last year, losing 5-3 to Switzerland and throwing away a 4-0 lead in a 4-4 draw at home against Sweden, and Loew was annoyed with his defenders for giving France too much space late on.
"We could have conceded at the end," Loew said. "Instead of keeping the ball near the corner flag we gave it away and they nearly scored."