The group of death came alive at Euro 2020 overnight, with France held to a shock 1-1 draw against Hungary, and Germany crushing Portugal 4-2.
After a quiet couple of days at the European Championships, this felt like the return of big-time football, with some big hints at how the tournament might pan out.
When France beat Germany 1-0 in the first round of matches, the pre-tournament narratives seemed to be playing out; France were going to steamroll everyone in their path and Germany were a shadow of their former selves.
Both those storylines can be set aside for now, with the French stumbling against a team nobody expected to make any ripples in Group F, and Germany picking apart one of the pre-tournament favourites.
Most importantly, we learned that Portugal almost certainly won’t retain their title as European champions.
France won’t have it all their own way
Or at least, not as easy as many assumed. There were some mitigating circumstances, primarily that Hungary were playing at home in Budapest at a gloriously full 67,215-capacity Puskas Arena.
Nonetheless, looking at France’s lavish squad, it’s natural to think this match would barely slow them down on their way to the latter stages of Euro 2020.
But Hungary more than held their own, taking the lead at the end of the first half through the majestically named Attila Fiola, before France avoided an embarrassing loss thanks to a sharp Antoinne Griezmann equaliser.
But nobody in the Les Bleus setup will be hitting the panic button.
Manager Didier Deschamps likes to play tournament football. In spite of the attacking talent available to him, his side often seems to purr along in second gear, remaining defensively sound and doing just enough to progress.
They’ll likely still win the group and still be around in the later stages of the tournament, even if they don’t always look flashy along the way.
Germany are contenders
There’s talk that ‘Germany are back’, but a more accurate assessment is that they have been here all along.
To dismiss their chances after a 1-0 loss to France was to ignore how well they played in their opening match against the World Champions.
They dominated possession for long periods and looked a slick and well-organised unit. Had their finishing been better, they could have come away with a result.
Playing against another star-studded side in Portugal today, in the match of the tournament so far, everything clicked.
It was especially impressive how Germany recovered after dominating for the first 15 minutes then going behind to a Portuguese counter-attack.
German shoulders could have slumped, but instead they kept up their furious assault on Portugal’s goal, resulting in a pair of rapid-fire own goals, and an unstoppable momentum that saw them score two more — through more conventional means — in the second half.
It was an awesome display and confirmed something that some might have forgotten: nobody wants to come up against Germany in tournament football.
Portugal can’t win it
Nobody ships four goals in a single match and goes on to win a major championship.
Portugal have a better squad than they did five years ago when they won Euro 2016, but it looks unlikely they will defend their title now.
They’re good enough to get up off the canvas, and could even go further into the tournament, but Germany have shown exactly how to rip their defence to shreds — through repeated attacks down the wings — and the top sides will be ready to exploit that weakness again.
Portugal won’t even get much of a chance to lick their wounds. Next up, a date with France in the final group game.