No Lampard, no Beckham and no Zidane. Will this matchup live up to the one in Euro 2004 when Lampard scored first, Becks missed a penalty that would have put the match beyond doubt and then England were defeated courtesy of a late double by Zidane? I doubt it. France comes into the tournament on a long unbeaten streak, but they haven’t hit the heights in the lead in to Euro 2012 and England seems incapable of scoring more than one goal in any match with the lineup and tactics Hodgson is employing.
Why England will win
- Hodgson has instilled his traditional game plan of being solid defensively with two banks of four and speed utilized to break on the counter and grab a goal against the run of play. It’s pragmatic and he certainly has the speed in the lineup.
- England’s injuries, new coach and absence of talismanic Rooney has reduced expectations and the accompanying pressure that has seemed to paralyze past England squads. Not much is expected of this England squad and that could be the key to unlocking the potential of the squad – with a lot of luck.
- England finally has a top goalkeeper in Joe Hart. It’s been ten years since David Seaman played in goal (and if you don’t consider him a top keeper, you have to go back to 1983 for Ray Clemence). Since then the “Golden Generation” has had to play with the likes of Scott Carson, Rob Green, Ben Foster, Chris Kirkland, Paul Robinson, David James and Richard Wright in goal.
- They have game changers in the speedy Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. If Welbeck is fit, his partnership with Young will be dangerous.
- Group stage games aren’t decided on penalties.
Why France will win
- England’s injuries mean that there is no real continuity in defense. It is tough to play a coordinated defensive strategy that Hodgson’s system requires when you haven’t had enough time to familiarize yourself with it given Roy’s recent hiring and you have had to change the central defenders following Rio’s withdrawal and Cahill’s injury.
- Rooney is not playing, Welbeck is just returning from an ankle injury and Defoe has just suffered a personal tragedy. England has no depth to spare at the moment.
- France has game changers across the park in Ribery, Benzema, Nasri, Ben Arfa and Giroud.
- Blanc is a great coach and has the team mindful of their duty to perform at a higher level after their disastrous outing at the World Cup. They are solid defensively, have a long unbeaten streak and the only question mark is the potential absence of Yann M’Vila.
Pre-match prediction: France 1 England 1
I wonder if England can score in this match. I wouldn’t be surprised if the only way they get one is on a dead ball. Ashely Young delivers great corners and free kicks. Terry or Lescott to score for England and Benzema to get one for France. A draw would be a great result for England who can get through as long as they don’t lose this match.