Both sides will run out line ups without too much surprise:
England (probable) : Hart, Johnson, Terry, Lescott, Cole, Milner, Gerrard, Parker, Downing, Welbeck, Young.
France (probable) : Lloris, Debuchy, Mexes, Rami, Evra, Cabaye, Diarra, Malouda, Nasri, Ribery, Benzema.
The only question was whether or not Andy Carroll would be featured at top of the English formation. I would keep an eye on him as a late game change, a player who could give real problems to Les Bleus and set pieces. The three keys to the game to watch for:
- Ribery on the left side. How will Johnson fare against the in form Kaiser? Johnson himself is eager to push up the pitch and at times forgets his defensive responsibilities. I am not sure that the England midfield will be able to cover for the gaps if that happens as well. If Ribery is allowed space and can get behind the English defense then it could be a long day for Hart and co. If Johnson does his best impression of the British squares repelling the Napoleonic cavalry charges at Waterloo than England will have countered on of France's major threats.
- England's strikers and wingers. How will Welbeck and Young fair against the French back line? I have a real concern over Mexes. I think that Rami will be fine, but the AC Milan man has shown some rust and some shaky defending as of late. While I am not ready to anoint Welbeck as the next Shearer, he has the pace and skill to potentially exploit Mexes' gaffs. I would look to Diarra and potentially Cabaye to try to cut down the source of passes from the midfield and try to avoid Welbeck spring loose behind the French defense. Mexes will most likely defend high, which could be a risky proposition against the England strikers. Evra might be the wild card for France, knowing very well the English strikers' tendencies. Also look for The Ox to be a wild card, he could come on late and use his pace against a tired French defense to create some real problems.
- Who holds their nerve. This might not seem important when you have two squads comprised of players that play club football at the likes of Manchester United, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, AC Milan...but both squads go into this match with high pressure. England has not won...well you know the rest...since 1966. Granted the Three Lions go into a tournament WITHOUT the burden of outrageous expectations from their home fans. For once the pundits in England are not predicting a title. But that pressure is always lurking...For the French until they win a game in a major tournament they will always be under the dark cloud of South Africa and the Domenech era. It seems like another life time ago when Les Bleus were in the same shoes as Spain - having won two major consecutive titles - World and European Cups. After an improbable run to the World Cup finals in 2006, France has been a shell of itself on the world stage. 2 points in 6 matches spanning the 2008 Euros and 2010 World Cup. France had goalless draws against Romania and Uruguay, and lost to Holland, Italy, Mexico and South Africa in that same span. Oh yeah and the little "strike" the players went on in South Africa! There is a tremendous amount of pressure on Les Bleus to do something...just win a game! Which ever team does not allow the pressure to impact their game will find a way to the points.
|Preview of what to expect from England?|
How France wins - Ribery overwhelms the right side of the English defense and he combines with Benzema to run circles around the English back 4. Nasri keeps Cole occupied enough that the Chelsea left back becomes a non-factor. The French midfield trio of Malouda, Diarra and Cabaye are better organized and have more pace that their English counter parts suffocating the midfield and not allowing regular service to be restored.
What will happen - I think this will be a very cautious match between two old foes. I think that the nerves will catch up with Les Bleus - especially on defense. England will beat France on a counter springing one of their pacey players to snatch a goal late in the first half. France will settle down and lay siege to Hart's goal. A late substitution of Giroud will prove the difference as he and Benzema link up for the equalizer - France 1 England 1
Allez les Bleus!