Euro 2012 preview: France v England

Update: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to start for England. Group D, Donetsk, kick-off 5pm (coverage starts 4pm ITV1)

As England prepare to kick-off their Euro 2012 campaign against France this evening, supporters are playing mind games with themselves. Unlike in previous years, expectations for the match, and the competition as a whole, are low – we know we can’t win. But wait a minute, it’s when expectations are high that England disappoints so now they’re low we can be quietly confident – which of course means we’ll be disappointed. Surely the only thing to do is to enter a Zen-like trance in which we completely empty our minds of all things football (although, good luck enjoying the game in that state…)


England’s probable starting line-up is Joe Hart, Glen Johnson, John Terry, Joleon Lescott, Ashley Cole, James Milner, Steven Gerrard, Scott Parker, Ashley Young, Danny Welbeck and a surprise inclusion for 18-year-old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (see below). Wayne Rooney is suspended for the first two group games and it looks like his Manchester United teammates Danny Welbeck and Ashley Young (pictured) will lead the line for England in his absence. And if that strategy fails, there’s always Andy Carroll and his lofty ponytail to worry the French defence. But don’t fret anyway, because…

LUCKY OMEN: It’s June 11, so we can’t lose can we? What’s that? You’re not aware of this particular calendrical quirk of fate? Well it turns out England are unbeaten in the last five games played at major tournaments on this date. Previous fixtures include a goalless draw with Brazil in the 1958 World Cup and a 3-0 win over Poland as recently as 1986. So there’s really nothing to worry about…

ONE TO WATCH: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. A bold move by Roy Hodgson to start the young Arsenal winger but one I believe could pay off. At just 18 years of age, The Ox plays, as the cliche goes, “without fear”. He has great close control, loves to run at defenders and has a decent shot on him too. Feed The Ox! 

LES HOMMES DE DANGER: As discussed, we can’t lose this game but which French players are most likely to stop us from winning? Well Karim Benzema has scored more goals (seven) and managed more assists (five) for France than any other player since coach Laurent Blanc took over two years ago. Meanwhile, there’s youthful vigour in the form of Newcastle United’s box-to-box midfielder Yohan Cabaye and rumoured Arsenal target Yann M’Vila (the latter back from injury, although unlikely to start). Oh, and Manchester City midfielder Samir Nasri and Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery are pretty good too.


PREDICTION: Well we can’t lose (see above) and we have The Ox but France are pretty rampant up front themselves, so 2-2. Oh, go on then, 3-2 to England…