If international week is the footballing equivalent of having to visit your grandma, then pre-season is like having to move in with her for an entire summer and sleep in the same bed. Whilst England’s World Cup qualifier against Scotland at least offered the narrative of a centuries-old rivalry and some late drama, it’s difficult to feign as much interest in tonight’s friendly against France but damn it, we’re going to try!
One fascinating angle from which to view the match is the juxtaposing paths both sides have taken since they last met – again, in a friendly – at Wembley in 2015. France would go on to reach the final of Euro 2016 in their own backyard, whilst England found a whole new way to crash out of a tournament, even by their own standards. Meanwhile, Paul Pogba has since become the most expensive player in world football, whilst club and country captain Wayne Rooney can’t get a look-in for Manchester United or England.
Didier Deschamps managed Les Bleus that evening in London and will do so again tonight in Paris. Gareth Southgate, by contrast, is the third manager England have employed since the meeting at Wembley.
The two managers actually met on the pitch when England last claimed victory in France and it would take a strong argument to suggest the players they’ll lead out tonight are better than the squads they themselves played in twenty years ago. Even so, France v England is as good as it gets in terms of friendly matches and it’s unlikely there will be many Three Lions fans counting down the days until September’s meeting with Malta.