Old enemies get Group D underway in Donetsk.
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France, world football’s form team with 15 wins in a run of 21 games without defeat, face an England team who had neither a manager or captain six weeks ago, have suffered a spate of pre-tournament injuries and are without star man Wayne Rooney.
For once, no-one is expecting much of England but, perversely, low expectations have bred hopes that Roy Hodgson’s men can triumph against adversity and be the surprise package of the competition.
France coach Laurent Blanc has injected youth and desire into his side and restored national pride, after Les Bleus finished bottom of their group at both Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup.
Roy Hodgson meanwhile, has put his faith in the old guard but the 64-year-old is the first ever England boss with previous international experience and England supporters will hope he has a trick or two up his sleeve.
And these two have history in this competition. In 2004, Zinedine Zidane scored a free-kick and capitalised on a Steven Gerrard error to score two stoppage time goals, as France beat England 2-1 in the opening group game.
Prediction: 2-0. Les Bleus to win it.
Team news: Midfielder Yann M’Vila is fit after an ankle knock, while Blaise Matuidi is available and Alou Diarra is likely to play. Karim Benzema should start despite complaining of back pain this week.
Familiar faces: Manchester City can boast Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy, both poached from Arsenal, while the Gunners are represented by Laurent Koscielny. Newcastle duo Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa are also in the squad.
One to watch: Yann M’Vila. The 22-year-old Rennes man is a target for Arsenal and should complete a move to the Emirates after the competition. He has been been an indispensible part of the French team since Laurent Blanc’s arrival, tidying up in front of the back four with minimal fuss. New Vieira? Probably more in the Makelele mould.
Soundbite: “If we waited for the English team, it will be 0-0 or we might get a goal from a set piece” – France coach Laurent Blanc doesn’t fancy England’s chances of scoring if his side sits back.
Stat attack: Les Bleus have claimed just two points from six group matches at the last two major tournaments.
What to expect: Far more likely than England to be the surprise package.
Team news: Wayne Rooney is suspended but striker Jermain Defoe will take his place on the bench despite flying home over the weekend following the death of his father. England are expected to partner Manchester United pair Ashley Young and Danny Welbeck up front, with a workmanlike wing pair of Stewart Downing and James Milner.
Unfamiliar faces: Third-choice ‘keeper Jack Butland of Birmingham City is a complete unknown having played just twelve times on loan at Cheltenham Town in League One last season. Spain’s third-choice ‘keeper is Victor Valdes of Barcelona by the way.
One to watch: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. A la Theo Walcott in 2006, Arsenal forward Oxlade-Chamberlain, 18, is England’s secret weapon…except this time he might actually play. And he has played in the Premier League too , albeit just a handful of times last season.
Soundbite: “Of course we feel the weight of history. We all feel that weight” – England coach Roy Hodgson.
Stat attack: England have played in the most European Championships (seven) without winning the tournament. They have also been eliminated in the group stage four times, more than anyone else.
What to expect: Disappointment.
FANCY A FLUTTER?
Outside bet: 2-2 draw at half-time: 125/1