England’s players will face a number of familiar domestic foes when they welcome Euro 2016 hosts France to Wembley on Tuesday (20:00 GMT, live on ITV1).
The French squad for the fixture features nine active Premier League players and five more who have previously played in England. Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud (pictured) is among the current contingent, and it was he who opened the scoring in their 2-0 win at home to Germany on Friday following an excellent piece of skill from Anthony Martial of Manchester United.
The victory was their fifth consecutive triumph in Didier Deschamps’ continuing quest to construct a squad capable of challenging for honours at Euro 2016. France progressed to the quarter-finals of last summer’s World Cup but will hope at least to reach the final four on home soil having won each of the last two major international tournaments they have hosted.
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Confidence in their hopes of doing so has certainly been boosted by friendly wins over the likes of Spain, Portugal (twice) and Germany since Brazil 2014, although those results have been mixed in with a draw and defeat against Albania and losses to both Belgium and Brazil. There does, though, generally seem to be a feeling that preparations are going well.
That optimism is due in part to the little connections that are being established throughout the side, from the athletic centre-back pairing of Raphael Varane and Mamadou Sakho through to the coordinated midfield work of Blaise Matuidi and Paul Pogba and onwards to the dangerous movement of Karim Benzema and Antoine Griezmann up front.
Deschamps’ France are an athletic and well-balanced outfit, with good strength and pace throughout the side. The absences, through injury, of Benzema and Sakho for this fixture have denied him the services of two important players, but there are still plenty, like Giroud and Martial, more than willing to step in and show their best when others are unavailable.
England fell to a 2-0 defeat away to Spain on Friday in the first of a number of high-profile friendlies designed to prepare them for next summer’s tournament. While Roy Hodgson was unable to call upon a number of his regular squad members for the fixture, it nevertheless provided a wake up call in the aftermath of England’s unblemished qualifying campaign.
Hodgson’s side would always have expected to be on the wrong end of the possession statistics in Alicante but the degree to which their hosts dominated both territory and the ball was a little concerning. Their goals didn’t arrive until the final 20 minutes but there could be no doubt that Spain were in total control throughout. England were left chasing shadows.
It was a performance that is sure to have at least partially dented the confidence England had accumulated during their 14-match unbeaten streak in the wake of their group-stage exit from last summer’s World Cup. Hodgson said afterwards that he hoped it wouldn’t, but he will still be keen for his side to get back to winning ways here.
In fairness, few national teams are as masterful at controlling possession as Spain, and England can at least expect to have more of the ball in this match. Wayne Rooney is likely to return to the starting XI after only seeing 20 minutes of action on Friday, while Nathaniel Clyne, Gary Cahill and John Stones will all also hope to be involved from the get-go.
It is likely that there will be a somewhat subdued atmosphere at Wembley in the wake of the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday night. Nearby explosions were clearly audible inside the Stade de France during France’s victory over Germany and it would not be at all surprising if some of their players are not in the best frame of mind for this fixture.
France do, though, generally look to have a slight edge over England, and this match preview views them as the most likely winners in a game in which both teams can be fancied to score. Our advised betting tips, found below, reflect that view.