World Cup winners France were held to a 0-0 draw by Germany in Munich in a lifeless start to the new Uefa Nations League on Thursday.
The heavyweight showdown at the Allianz Arena between the last two winners of the World Cup looked like the perfect game to mark the opening night of the new international competition.
But the game never really sparked into life, although the French were grateful to goalkeeper Alphonse Areola for a couple of fine saves in the second half to keep the hosts at bay.
The Netherlands are the other team in Group 1 of League A, and Ronald Koeman’s team travel to Paris on Sunday, when the French will turn out at home for the first time since their glorious campaign in Russia.
Gareth Bale scored a stunning goal as an impressive Wales beat the Republic of Ireland 4-1 in Ryan Giggs’s first competitive match as manager.
Bale followed up his fine start to the season with Real Madrid by curling in a sensational strike from outside the box in the 18th minute of their League B encounter in Cardiff – his 30th goal for his country.
Tom Lawrence had already given Wales the lead before that, and 17-year-old Ethan Ampadu set up Aaron Ramsey for the third goal before halftime.
Bale then set up Connor Roberts for the hosts’ fourth after the break, before substitute Shaun Williams pulled a goal back for the Irish after robbing Ramsey of possession.
Wales go to Denmark on Sunday, and Bale added: “The aim is to win every game we play. We know the format, we know it’s another way to qualify for the Euros, so we’ll be taking it seriously.”
Also in League B, Ukraine came from behind to win 2-1 in the Czech Republic with Oleksandr Zinchenko scoring the decisive goal in stoppage time.
In League C, Fulham’s Stefan Johansen scored twice as Norway beat Cyprus 2-0, and Bulgaria won 2-1 in Slovenia.
The first ever goal of the new Nations League was a stunner, scored by Giorgi Chakvetadze in distant Astana, as Georgia beat Kazakhstan 2-0 in Group 1 of League D.
In the same league, Arsenal’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan had a penalty saved as his Armenia beat Liechtenstein 2-1.
The opening round of Nations League matches continues on Friday, with Italy facing Poland in the standout game.