The first round of Euro 2012 fixtures concludes Monday with the beginning of Group D action. Forever rivals France will be looking to avenge a dismal showing at the World Cup in South Africa, as they do battle with a weakened, but still dangerous England side.
After the past few disasters on the international stage, the theme for France here is retribution. Laurent Blanc has taken over the squad and has them in great form entering Euro 2012. They possess talent and depth at all positions, and can attack as well as anyone in the competition. Everything that has plagued the French in years past; the lack of cohesion, undisciplined play, and rifts with the coach, have all been replaced with excitement and optimism. France topped their group in qualifying, and have looked dangerous in recent pre-tournament victories, crushing Estonia 4-0, and even besting the Germans 2-1 back in February. The French have a lot to prove at Euro 2012, and despite their past failures, could be considered a decent shot to win the entire tournament.
England meanwhile enter in complete disarray. Manager Roy Hodgson was appointed just weeks before the competition, and has had to deal with injuries at virtually all positions along with controversy over team selection. Complicating matters is the fact that they’ll be without their top player in Wayne Rooney for their first two matches, who remains banned due to suspension. This is undoubtedly one of England’s weakest teams of all-time, and expectations remain very low for the country. Without Rooney early on, England will likely struggle to score and could see themselves exit after just the group stage if they’re not in peak form.
France vs England Betting Odds:
France (+150) / Draw (+200) / England (+220)
Over 2 (-110) / Under 2 (-110)
Match Analysis & Pick:
The negativity surrounding this England squad entering Euro 2012 has been astounding. Though they aren’t at their best and expectations are running low, the English remain a dangerous side with quality players at key positions. Losing Rooney will hurt against the French, but France is a tad unsettled at the back with Philippe Mexes and Adil Rami appearing mistake-prone in the centre of defense. Whether England can generate enough quality midfield play to exploit this however remains unlikely.
Laurent Blanc has France entering this game a rejuvenated side that are unbeaten in 21 matches. Les Bleus will be without key midfielder Yann M’Villa in their first match, but he should return later in the competition. France’s strength lies with their attacking midfielders, and extraordinary play from the flanks. Frank Ribery, Florent Malouda, and Samir Nasri are three elite playmakers that will give a questionable English back-four trouble for the majority of the match. Patrice Evra and Mathieu Debuchy provide France great width as wingbacks with pace who can wreak havoc on the flanks. With all of the transformations of late within the England defense, it will be quite the task to keep this powerhouse French attack off the scoreboard.
Look for England to adopt a cautious approach to their opening fixture. Hodgson has been known to be a defense-first coach, and will likely insert James Milner and Stewart Downing as holding midfielders to secure a draw for his side. Whether or not they can hold a dangerous French line-up for the duration of the match remains to be seen, but the chances aren’t promising. England will be extremely vulnerable at left-back with Glen Johnson going against one of the game’s premier talents in Frank Ribery. Ribery’s pace, vision, and creativity will terrorize the England defense, setting up prime scoring options for the always lethal, Karim Benzema.
Expect a valiant defensive, and somewhat surprising effort from the Three Lions, but ultimately they will fall just short. France will control the run of play, dictating the tempo and asserting their will on an England side devoid of attacking options up front.
If you are concerned about the draw factor in this match, most sportsbooks offer fair odds on the option to get France on a ‘Draw No Bet’ wager. If the French do in fact tie, the wager is simply refunded. However, expect Les Bleus to win a tight match on a late breakthrough, offering bettors great value on the money-line.
PICK: France To Win (+150)