Euro 2012 Preview: France vs England

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Euro 2012 Preview: France vs England
Donetsk, Jun 11: Euro 2012 Group D kicks off with injury-hit England and flamboyant France clashing head-to-head at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk.

Les Bleus beat the Three Lions in their opening fixture of Euro 2004 in Portugal.

Pre-tournament hype about Roy Hodgson's boys seems to have taken a beating with their never-ending injury list and Wayne Rooney's two-match suspension. Ignorance of Rio Ferdinand, even though Gary Cahill was ruled out of the finals, raised questions regarding Hogdson's selection strategy.

Champions league winner and Chelsea veteran Frank Lampard was second best to start in the middle along side skipper Steven Gerrard as Hodgson favoured Tottemham Hotspur midfielder Scott Parker. However, Lampard was also ruled out due to injury which prompted Hodgson to opt flop Liverpool player Jordan Hendersen.

Against a side with strong attacking line-up featuring Samir Nasri, Frank Ribery, Flourent Malouda and lone striker Karim Benzema, the English back-line will be tested to the core. Joleon Lescott and John Terry will start at the heart of the defence while Ashley Cole and Glenn Johnson will play on either flanks.

Both teams are likely to hold back and advance on the counter attack but with two teams packed with flying wingers along with a clinical finisher, this match could go down the wire and thrill fans.

Ribery's forward drives have threatened many opponents at club level, the big question is whether or not he can trouble Johnson down the left channel. With Yvan M'vila ruled out, Alou Diarra is likely to play the holding role with Yohan Cabaye or Hatem Ben Arfa ahead for support in the middle.

Patrice Evra sealed his spot at left-back despite a poor performance against Iceland, in which France came back from a two-goal deficit to win 3-2. Coach Laurent Blanc will decide on Les Bleus centre options including Laurent Koscielny, Philippe Mexes and Adil Rami while Mathieu Debuchy will start on the right-hand side.

Although their attack looks much stronger, the French should be able to stop the Three Lions wingers James Milner and Theo Walcott. Striker Danny Welbeck is likely to start ahead of Andy Carroll while in-form forward cum winger will start behind the frontman. But Hodgson could be tempted to utilise Carroll's strength in the air.

Les Bleus back-line will have to deal with long diagonal balls as well block Young's run while England have to stop the attacking trio playing behind Benzema.


France: Lloris-Debuchy, Rami, Mexes, Evra-Cabaye, Diarra-Nasri, Malouda, Ribery-Benzema.

England: Hart-Johnson, Terry, Lescott, Cole-Milner, Gerrard, Parker, Walcott-Young-Carroll.

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