There is only one Rudi Völler. After the national football team’s decline under Hansi Flick, the DFB sports director, as interim team boss, led the European Championship hosts out of their low spirits with a 2-1 (1-0) win against runner-up world champions France. Instead of whistles, there was thunderous applause in Dortmund on Tuesday evening. Nine months before the home tournament, Rio world champion Thomas Müller (4th minute) got the team off to a dream start with his 45th international goal.

The DFB team then defended passionately and as a collective, Leroy Sané (87th) perfected their first success after five winless test matches. After a penalty, Antoine Griezmann (89th) only managed to score the next goal for the French, who were playing without superstar Kylian Mbappé.

And now? The 63-year-old Völler declared his comeback as team boss after 19 years as a “one-off thing”. But in the package with the new young sports director Hannes Wolf and ex-national player Sandro Wagner, he did a top job in a very short time after Flick was released after the disastrous 1:4 against Japan. The appearance of the DFB team was completely different in front of 60,486 spectators. The national coach question will also determine the coming days – with Völler, celebrated by the fans, right in the middle. “There is only one Rudi Völler,” shouted the audience. Is someone like Julian Nagelsmann really coming? The national team is going on tour to the USA in October and a solution should be found by then.

7,020 days after his last game as team boss, Völler did not act like a great Zampano. The 63-year-old mostly stayed on the bench, only jumping into the coaching zone for important actions. He communicated a lot with the U20 coaching team Hannes Wolf and Sandro Wagner, who supported him, and spoke well to the substitutes.

The immediate measures took effect. Völler made three changes to the starting line-up: Benjamin Henrichs, Müller and Jonathan Tah moved into the starting line-up to replace the ailing Joshua Kimmich as well as Kai Havertz and Nico Schlotterbeck. The measures worked.

The strong Henrichs, after a one-two on the left with Serge Gnabry, put the ball back to Müller in the penalty area – and the Munich player, who was also brought back in the spirit of optimism, scored his first international goal in 15 months from close range. For France it was the first goal conceded since losing the World Cup final against Argentina at the end of 2022. Chants of “Rudi Völler” immediately echoed from the stands.

This was preceded by captain Ilkay Gündogan following up after he lost the ball – and that’s exactly what Völler had demanded: “The most important thing is defensive behavior.” That’s why he also called up Tah, who was in good form at Bayer Leverkusen, as a right-back and Leipzig’s Henrichs at left back. Both played their speed on the outside, won many of their duels and initially gave the team security. But there was also intensive work against the ball in the midfield and attack, and the teamwork was significantly improved compared to the disappointing last appearances.

The fact that France coach Didier Deschamps did not call on World Cup top scorer Mbappé suited the Germans. Mbappé’s representative, ex-Frankfurt Randal Kolo Muani, initially had the German defensive players under control. After half an hour, the fans honored their team’s performance, which was not flawless but at least passionate, with shouts of La Ola and “Germany”.

Völler suffered his first setback in the 25th minute when he was forced to replace his captain Gündogan. Pascal Groß came to his second international match for the FC Barcelona professional, who landed unhappily on his backside after an aerial duel with Adrien Rabiot. The England legionnaire didn’t always look good against the French, who became more dominant as the game went on, and even before the half-time whistle he received a yellow card after a tactical foul.

In the 39th minute, Aurelien Tchouameni tested Marc-André ter Stegen twice with his head, but the goalkeeper was in the post both times. At halftime, the DFB selection, which had been booed against Japan, was greeted with applause.

After the break, it was Tchouameni again who forced Ter Stegen into a save with a long-range shot (57′). The guests, who started the European Championship qualification with an impeccable record of five wins and 11:0 goals, still did not find their usual wit. The Germans didn’t just limit themselves to defense, but like Florian Wirtz (67th), they also had good chances. Ter Stegen once again held strong against Antoine Griezmann in the final phase (82′). However, he was powerless against the penalty.