France - England Preview: Blanc's men hope to repeat Euro 2004 opener by toppling Three Lions
Les Bleus emerged victorious when these two sides met in their opening fixture in Portugal eight years ago, but look likely to be missing midfielder Yann M'Vila on Monday
By Oliver Platt
Debuchy, Rami, Mexes, Evra
Nasri, Malouda, Ribery
Johnson, Terry, Lescott, Cole
Milner, Gerrard, Parker, Downing
France coach Laurent Blanc is unlikely to risk midfielder Yann M'Vila against England as deputies Alou Diarra and Blaise Matuidi have recovered well from respective knee and hamstring problems.
M'Vila has struggled with a thigh injury but otherwise Blanc has had few fresh concerns to deal with since Loic Remy dropped out of the squad with a thigh problem of his own at the end of May.
Karim Benzema will start ahead of Olivier Giroud in attack following his dazzling display in Les Bleus' final pre-tournament friendly against Estonia, while Philippe Mexes is likely to retain his place despite pressure from backup Laurent Koscielny.
Several questions of strategy, form and fitness still surround England manager Roy Hodgson's team selection. John Terry returned to training on Thursday following a hamstring complaint and should start alongside Joleon Lescott in central defence, with Phil Jagielka waiting in the wings.
At the opposite end of the pitch, both Andy Carroll and Danny Welbeck have staked claims to the lone striking role, with Wayne Rooney suspended. Welbeck scored in the Three Lions' last friendly against Belgium, but Hodgson may be tempted to make use of Carroll's height and power.
On the right flank, James Milner is almost certain to start, while Stewart Downing could be preferred to the more attacking but perhaps less disciplined Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- France are two-time European champions, having lifted the trophy on home turf in 1984 before repeating the feat in Belgium and Netherlands in 2000.
- Only five players have featured in the Champions League and European Championship final in the same season. France could potentially add two more names to this group in the form of Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery and Chelsea midfielder Florent Malouda.
- France were involved in the highest-scoring match in European Championship history in 1990 when they lost 5-4 to Yugoslavia.
- Legendary French midfielder and now Uefa president Michel Platini holds the record for the fastest hat-trick scored in a European Championship. He bagged three goals in just 18 minutes when Les Bleus beat Yugoslavia 3-2 in 1984.
- England have progressed beyond the group stage just three times in European Championship history. They reached the semi-final in 1964 and 1996 and the quarter-final in 2004.
- Roy Hodgson (pictured right) became the 14th permanent manager of the Three Lions when he was unveiled by the FA in May. He is only the third to have been born in London, after Sir Alf Ramsey and Terry Venables.
- England suffered defeat last time they met France at a European Championship. In their opening match of the 2004 tournament in Portugal, Zinedine Zidane scored two late goals - one a free-kick, the other a penalty - to hand Les Bleus a 2-1 victory.
- Generally, though, England have fared well against France, winning 16 and losing only eight of the 28 meetings between the two teams.
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Top 3 Predictions
France 2-1 England
- 16.84 %
France 1-2 England
- 16.35 %
France 2-0 England
- 9.94 %
|Euro 2012 (EC)||11 Jun 2012||France 1 - England 1|
|International Friendlies (FR)||17 Nov 2010||England 1 - France 2|
|International Friendlies (FR)||26 Mar 2008||France 1 - England 0|
|19 Nov 2013||France 3 - Ukraine 0||WCQE|
|15 Nov 2013||Ukraine 2 - France 0||WCQE|
|15 Oct 2013||France 3 - Finland 0||WCQE|
|11 Oct 2013||France 6 - Australia 0||FR|
|10 Sep 2013||Belarus 2 - France 4||WCQE|
|-||Hatem Ben Arfa|
Benzema was in majestic form in Le Mans as Les Bleus swept aside an Estonia team good enough to reach the qualification playoffs, scoring twice and laying on another goal for Franck Ribery with a sublime flick. The players behind him are likely to receive plenty of the ball against a defensive England team so it is vital that Benzema is firing on all cylinders and makes use of the service that comes his way.
No player in the England squad has more caps than Cole, who frequently proves to be the Three Lions' best player in major tournaments. Plenty will be asked of him on Monday, when he will be charged with containing the France's trio of attacking midfielders while simultaneously supporting attacks down the left flank. His mobility and technique will be vital in England's transition play up the pitch.
France's attacking potential was there for all to see in their final pre-Euro 2012 friendly against Estonia but they also looked defensively frail at times and that will have given England hope. Roy Hodgson's team will be on the back foot for much of this encounter but their defence was not breached during their two recent friendlies against Norway and Belgium and they could steal a surprise result in Donetsk.