England open their Euro 2012 campaign against traditional rivals France in a repeat of the two teams’ opening fixture at Euro 2004 under a cloud of uncertainty that is hanging over Roy Hodgson’s men in the Ukraine. France, under Laurent Blanc, are the clear favourites going into the clash at Donetsk’s Donbass Arena on Monday. Yet the English media hopes that a tight defensive set up of England, in addition to Hodgson’s immense managerial acumen, would neutralise French attacking prowess and achieve an outstanding result. No doubt England are the underdogs going into the clash given all the injury problems that Roy Hodgson’s short tenure has had to withstand so far. Yet, the English have the mental capacity to frustrate a free flowing Les Blues side in Donetsk.
The French are playing in their sixth successive European Championships and they have a pedigree to envy. Winners in 1984 on home soil and in 2000 in Holland and Belgium fresh after winning the World Cup two years back, Les Blues are one of the contenders for Euro 2012. Michel Platini, the best of the best the country has ever produced, led France to their maiden international tournament victory in 1984 on home soil and would be the man watching from the stands as the head of UEFA. He would be hoping dearly that as the president of the continent’s governing body, he get the privilege to hand over the Henri Delauney trophy to Hugo Lloris in Kiev on July 1.
The Three Lions have a disappointing pedigree at the European Championships with just two semi-final appearances to show for, in 1968 and 1996. They are the only European winners of the World Cup who are yet lay their hands on the Henri Delauney trophy. England had failed to qualify for Euro 2008, having had a disappointing qualifying campaign that saw their hopes vaporize by technically efficient Croatia and Russia with the former picking up wins home and away to condemn Steve McLaren’s side to third place in qualifying. Any hope of a better show in Euro 2012 has already diminished with injuries to key players prior to the finals. But one thing is for sure. The travelling England fans would be making it difficult for opponents inside the stadiums on England match days.
Head to Head
Generally speaking, England have a decent record against France, having won 16 times in 28 games with 8 losses and four draws. But the last few matches between the two nations have seen Les Blues dominate their rivals from across the Channel. England suffered defeat to France the last time they met at the European Championships with two late Zinedine Zidane goals deciding the tie in their Euro 2004 opener in Portugal, after Frank Lampard had given the Three Lions the lead. The last two international friendlies have seen France win 1-0 at home in 2008 and prevailing 2-1 on Nov, 2010 at Wembley.
France qualified for Euro 2012 just ahead of a young and vibrant Bosnia side after starting the campaign amidst all the ruckus surrounding the team’s World Cup debacle in 2010. After losing the first game at home to Belarus in Laurent Blanc’s first competitive game in charge of the national side, France produced a masterclass performance in Bosnia that ignited a French renaissance that is in the course of coming full circle in Poland and Ukraine with many pundits tipping them to reach the very summit of Euro 2012. Les Blues are on a 20-match unbeaten streak with recent victories over Brazil and Germany making them one of the teams to watch out for.
Last five matches
|France- W W W W D|
|Jun 5, 2012||France 4- Estonia 0||INF|
|May 31, 2012||France 2- Serbia 0||INF|
|May 27, 2012||France 3- Iceland 2||INF|
|Feb 29, 2012||Germany 1- France 2||INF|
|Nov 15, 2011||France 0- Belgium 0||INF|
|England- W W L W W|
|Jun 2, 2012||England 1- Belgium 0||INF|
|May 26, 2012||Norway 0- England 1||INF|
|Feb 29, 2012||England 2- Netherlands 3||INF|
|Nov 15, 2011||England 1- Sweden 0||INF|
|Nov 11, 2011||England 1- Spain 0||INF|