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England v France – Match Preview

Roy Hodgson insists his England side must have ‘full respect’ for France as they prepare for the Group D clash in Donetsk on Monday evening in what will be his first competitive game as manager

Barely six-weeks since he succeeded Fabio Capello in the dugout Hodgson will lead the Three Lions out at the Donbass Arena and is fully aware of the threat the French pose having remained unbeaten in 21 games and rebuilt their reputation since the disastrous 2010 World Cup campaign.

The former West Bromich Albion head coach insists the champions of Euro 2000 men deserve the utmost respect but believes form doesn’t factor in a major tournament despite recording two wins in a row since being handed the national reins at the beginning of May.

“It is a stern challenge. We are facing a team in excellent form and 21 matches unbeaten at any level is a fine achievement. But when you come to European Championships or World Cups, having good or bad form isn’t the factor that’s decisive,” Hodgson said in his pre-match press conference.

“It’s how your team plays on the night, how people adjust to the circumstances – they’ll be slightly different here in Donetsk – and it’s about what you can do as a team.

“We have full respect for the French, but the players are confident in their own ability.”

France beat England with two late Zinedine Zidane goals in their opening game at Euro 2004 and were victorious in their last meeting in November 2010 with Karim Benzema and Mathieu Valbuena scoring in 2-1 win.

Head Coach Laurent Blanc has transformed Les Bleus since taking over from Raymond Domenech two years ago and is counting on his knowledge of the English game to give him the upper hand over opposite number Hodgson.

Blanc spent two-years at Manchester United and whilst he has learned nothing new about England’s playing mentality he has told his players to be wary of getting caught out and affording Steven Gerrard time on the ball.

“Essentially, the fact I played in England for two years means I know the English players’ mentality. I just saw Gary Neville a few minutes ago, now coaching with the national team.

“I know what to expect in terms of spirit and strength in the tackles. They’ll be like that tomorrow, maybe even more so. We’ve watched their last two friendly games (against Norway and Belgium). We didn’t learn they were very committed – we knew that.

“But if they play in the same way they’ll drop back, have a bank of four with some quick players, and try and hit us on the break. We need to be wary of that, and make sure we’re not caught off guard. If there’s space in behind, they’ll counter-attack and Steven Gerrard is a great passer of the football.”

Injury News

Wayne Rooney is the only absentee for England having been suspended for the first two group games. John Terry and Ashley Cole were concerns for Hodgson but should play.

Blanc is unlikely to risk  Yann M’Vila as Alou Diarra and Blaise Matuidi have recovered in time from respective knee and hamstring problems with the former likely to start.

Key Players

Ashley Young

Having scored or assisted 11 of England’s last 20 goals Young has become a central figure in attack and will continue to operate in withdrawn role behind Manchester United teammate Danny Welbeck. It’s imperative that the winger sees a lot of the ball in the final third if he’s going to exert his creative influence.

Frank Ribery

Likely to be pitched against Glen Johnson on the left of Frances attacking triumvirate and will be expected to give the England full back a torrid time. Ribery’s pace and penchant to drift inside when in possession should put Johnson on the back foot provide a real threat in attack.

Prediction 0-1

Article title: England v France – Match Preview

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