Venue: Donbass Arena, Donetsk
Match time: 19:00 UTC +3 on June 11, 2012
Old rivals France and England, the two biggest teams of Group D, go head-to-head on June 11, 2012 in a crucial opening game. This encounter might well be the key in deciding the winner of the group. The other two teams in the group, Sweden and Ukraine do not have as much firepower as these two have. France are the in-form team heading into this clash on the back of a 21 game unbeaten run. Les Blues have a significant edge over their rivals ahead of this match, given that England’s squad is totally depleted due to injuries.
The last meeting between the two was in November 2010 at Wembley. France emerged on top with a fine 2-1 victory. England, haven’t beaten France in their last five encounters and had never managed a win against them in the European championship.
France, under head coach and former French midfielder Laurent Blanc, have been resurgent after their World cup 2010 nadir. Blanc seems to have assembled together a cohesive and consistent unit. His only area of concern is the below par central midfield, further diminished by the recent injury to Juan M’Vila.
Roy Hodgson, who recently took over the manager’s job after the departure of Fabio Capello, has overseen only two games for England and hasn’t had enough time to settle down. He faces major concerns as Gareth Barry, Frank Lampard and Gary Cahill are out injured while Rooney is suspended for the first two games. As troubles mount for the Three Lions, he would be forced to alter his match strategies to form the best possible combination.
England’s key player is undoubtedly the captain, Steven Gerrard. A consummate midfielder, he would be expected to retain possession in the midfield in the absence of the experienced Frank Lampard. He can provide much-needed cover for an unsettled central defence and also link up with the strikers during attack.
For Les Blues, Frank Ribery and Karim Benzema are the men to watch out for. Ribery, who has scored three goals in the last three games, has been in terrific form lately and his pace and guile will be a cause of worry for Hodgson. Benzema was exceptional for his club Real Madrid, scoring 20 plus goals last season and will be expected to replicate that form for his country.
France’s probable lineup (4-3-3): Hugo Lloris, Philippe Mexes, Adil Rami, Patrice Evra, Mathieu Debuchy, Alou Diarra, Florent Malouda, Johan Cabaye, Frank Ribery, Karim Benzema, Samir Nasri.
England’s probable lineup (4-4-2): Joe Hart, Glen Johnson, Joe Lescott, John Terry, Ashley Cole, James Milner, Steven Gerrard, Scott Parker, Ashley Young, Oxlade Chamberlain, Danny Welbeck.
About the Author (Author Profile)
Gokul is a software professional from Chennai, India. An avid sports fan, he is a keen follower of Cricket, Football, Hockey, Tennis and Formula One. He styles his articles as razor-edge analyses of all the hot and happening events in the field of sports.