Germany coach Joachim Low paid tribute to a resurgent French side but rejected the notion that his team get cold feet when it comes to playing the world's greats.
Two of European football's heavyweights clash in an international friendly in Paris tomorrow night and, although only pride is at stake, both nations are keen to start the new calendar year with a win.
Germany have not managed to do that since 2008, losing to Norway, Argentina and France and drawing with Italy in their last four year-opening fixtures.
But when asked by a French journalist why Germany always seem to stumble when they meet the great nations, Low rolled up his sleeves and pre-empted tomorrow's battle at the Stade de France.
``We are currently the world number two,'' he said. ``Maybe we have not yet landed the ultimate blow, but let's not forget that Spain's team of the century has crossed our path.
``Just look at 2008, 2010 and 2012, when we were in the semis, or even finals, then I think we have improved.
``I am incredibly proud of the way we have taken a huge step forwards, giving lots of joy to our fans.
``Sure, we're disappointed with a few results, like 2010 or 2012 against Italy, but we're working on getting it right and it has got to be said we have made huge improvements.''
Further improvements are what Low will be looking for tomorrow, although his hopes of bucking a trend of poor results in February or March fixtures have suffered a blow with the withdrawal of five members of his original 23-man party.
Bastian Schweinsteiger, Miroslav Klose, Mario Gotze, Marco Reus and Marcel Schmelzer are key members of his usual starting XI too, but Low has played down the significance of an enforced reshuffle.
``It's not a setback,'' he said. ``These problems have been around as long as we've been playing international games.
``You get injuries and illnesses, especially in February or in November. Certainly it's frustrating for a coach, but you've got to be able to cope with the situation and prove that we have more than just 11 good players in Germany.
``We have got to be ready to test this kind of a situation in case it arises in a tournament and that is what a year like this one, without any major tournament, is all about.
``It is about putting together a squad where we have at least two players suitable for every position.
``I think we have a good squad overall, even if we are without these players.''
And Low realises that his squad has got to be good to cope with a France side who appear to have put the disappointments of 2008 and 2010 behind them.
``It's a tough test because France in recent months have got back to their former best,'' he said at a press conference in the French capital.
``They get good results against big nations, like beating Italy and drawing 1-1 with Spain, and like I said, they are back to their best so we have got to play a great game just to be on a par with them.
``They have a fantastic mix of technically-gifted players, like Franck Ribery or Karim Benzema, but also very physical players in their midfield and defence, and now they are incredibly well-organised and play a fast combination game too.''
Much of the credit for France's recent upturn in form has to go to their coach Didier Deschamps, whose side are winning over the French public after more unsavoury events had carved a gulf between them.
``There were plenty of worries before our games against Spain and Italy, but now, there is an optimism brewing,'' he said.
``We now need confirmation. We need to build on our last two matches to fulfil our goal of 2013, which is qualifying for the World Cup.
``We have five more games to play in qualifying and there is a long way to go, but we must not sit back because human nature dictates that, when things are going well, you start to think that everything is going very well, and I don't want us to take a slap in the face tomorrow.
``We are playing Germany at the Stade de France and I cannot see how anybody can take such a match lightly.''
Deschamps has fewer team selection problems and has the luxury of choosing between Bacary Sagna and Mathieu Debuchy for a place at right full-back, while the game will also present an intriguing battle between Bayern Munich team mates Ribery and Philipp Lahm.