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Germany complete (almost) perfect 2017 by playing France to a draw

Fifteen games, zero losses; Germany have wrapped up a near perfect year with a 2-2 draw against France. They head into a World Cup year not only as the defending champions, but as the world's most in-form national team

Germany seemed a tad overmatched in their final match of 2017.

France's athletic forwards Kylian Mbappe, Alexandre Lacazette and Anthony Martial caused Germany's defense a lot of trouble througout Tuesday night's match. But Lars Stindl, who received his first Germany cap in June, ensured that the national team remained unbeaten in 2017 by scoring an equalizer in stoppage time of the second half as the two international powers played to a 2-2 draw in Cologne. 

"Luckily we scored a goal on our last attack," Stindl told German public broadcaster ARD after the match. "I think it was an all-around successful year for the DFB (German football association)."

That is putting it mildly. Not only did Germany win 11 of the 15 games they played in 2017, they also completed a perfect World Cup-qualifying campaign and returned to the top of the FIFA men's rankings for the first time in two years.

Not only that, but by winning the Confederations Cup without many of their World Cup stars, Germany showed that Joachim Löw may just have the deepest talent pool in the world, from which to select his squad for next summer. So as their 2017 international schedule, draws to a close, Germany certainly look to be among the favorites to lift the World Cup trophy in Russia.

Fußball Köln Länderspiel D vs Frankreich (Getty Images/AFP/J. McDougall)

Germany coach Joachim Löw (right) sees France as one of Germany's biggest competitors

Playing with the best

Germany's 21-match unbeaten run since the 2016 European championship has impressed, but the world champions have not had the toughest set of opponents over that stretch.

In fact, over the past year and a half, Germany have played just three teams that have qualified for the World Cup — Mexico, England and France. Germany defeated Mexico to reach the Confed Cup final in June, but they failed to beat the other two, playing England to a scoreless draw last Friday before Tuesday's 2-2 draw against France.

France likely to be in the mix

Given France's impressive pool of young talent, many see them as likely to be among Germany's toughest opponents at next summer's tournament, and coach Löw is no exception.

Although these were only friendlies, Löw was satisfied with how his team performed both against France and in the 0-0 draw in England on Friday, describing both of the contests as having been at a "high level."

And according to veteran midfielder Sami Khedira, the fact that Germany were able to pull off  a draw against the Euro 2016 finalists, who also happen to be the last team to have beaten them, was a sign that the team is continuing to move in the right direction, seven months before their next major tournament kicks off.

"I think that, all in all, we showed that we were capable of competing at the highest level this year," Khedira told ARD. "We came back from a deficit (against France) and showed great spirit."

Germany's next set of friendlies doesn't come until next March, when they are to face fellow World Cup participants Spain in Düsseldorf and Brazil in Berlin. These will provide coach Löw with his last opportunity to make any necessary tweaks to his lineup, before Germany embark upon their campaign to defend their World Cup title. That's something that has been Löw's biggest stated goal ever since a certain night in Rio in 2014.

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