CALLUM WILSON (@CallumWilsonSJ) shares his thoughts on Tuesday night's friendly between France and England in Paris.
France v England | Tuesday 20:00 | ITV
There’s a difference between strolling qualifiers for both the World Cup and the Euros, and playing top -lass organised opposition.
Over the last few years, England have eased past the likes of Slovakia, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovakia and Malta. Notice a common theme?
Essentially European below-par opposition who come up against the Three Lions due to England’s high seed, and relatively straight forward, to say the least, qualifying groups.
However, when faced with top calibre opposition, Gareth Southgate’s men and the managers who preceded him, have essentially come up short.
For example, you only have to look at the 1-0 defeat away to Germany, the 2-0 defeat to Spain (almost made up by a respectable 2-2 draw), the 1-2 defeat to Holland and the 1-1 draw with Russia. Notice another theme?
When England come up against anything that resembles a well-structured and organised team – they do not show up.
Why is this game taking place?
Tough one really. Why are England taking on France in an international friendly on 13 June, when we constantly moan at English players not being given enough time off-season?
This is literally the perfect opportunity for a well-earned rest for the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Raheem Sterling (to name just a few), to enjoy their off-season after long and strenuous campaigns.
But instead, the Three Lions jet to the Stade de France to take part in a game that will both challenge them, and give them the opportunity to experiment.
You can’t win anything with kids, but you must let them shine
Southgate cannot go with the old-guard. This is a chance, whether it should be played or not, to try out a different formation, a different line-up and most importantly a different ethos when it comes to playing a top-quality competitor.
The former-Middlesbrough man, and his managerial adversary Didier Deschamps have an opportunity to play the youngsters.
Kylian Mbappé, John Stones, Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain and Marcus Rashford – these are the players who should and will be given a chance to shine in the spotlight against competitive opposition.
Give them the opportunity to revel against top quality defences.
The betting angle
This is a game of variables. With the nature of international friendlies, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what team either national side will put out.
To look at it purely from a statistical point of view, England have only won just once in their previous six away games against France, drawing one and losing four. On the other hand, England did manage victory in their previous friendly at Wembley, putting two past Les Blues with no reply.
France are strong in international friendlies, and do not take their foot off the gas. In total, they’ve won seven out of their last nine home friendlies despite playing theoretically weakened teams and experimenting.
Olivier Giroud has been more than prominent for the French, notching up seven goals in his last five starts at home. A remarkable record for an effective striker.
Sure, he isn’t blessed with outstanding pace, but he is vital when called upon and more than steps up in the big moments. I fancy Giroud to capitalise on an England team I think will sit back and soak up pressure, attempting to hit France on the break as I see France’s centre midfielders controlling the game.
England haven’t won in their last three away internationals, equalling an unwanted record that harks back to September 2013. I expect a relatively non-eventful possession dominant game, with France shading it.
I like France at 19/20 (Paddy Power). For further value, I’ll also add in Oliver Giroud first and anytime goalscorer for some decent value.
France v England – France to win (19/20 Paddy Power)
France v England – Olivier Giroud to score first (5/1 Bet365)
France v England – Olivier Giroud to score at anytime (7/4 Bet365)