England and France seek to end bad year on a high
London: England coach Fabio Capello and his French counterpart Laurent Blanc will both want to end a hugely disappointing year with a win Wednesday but will try to achieve their aims in different ways.
Wednesday’s friendly at Wembley Stadium brings together two of the biggest under-achievers at the World Cup where France imploded in the group stage while England were eliminated in the last 16.
Blanc took over after the World Cup from Raymond Domenech who was powerless to stop his squad’s disintegration in June which culminated in the players refusing to train after striker Nicolas Anelka was sent home for insulting the coach.
Since then he has seen something of a revival in their fortunes with three wins and a defeat from their opening four Euro 2012 qualifying matches leaving them top of Group D.
England have also improved with three wins and a draw in their four games since the World Cup, but Capello is far more inclined to experiment in Wednesday’s game than Blanc is.
The Italian has called four players into his squad for the first time, three of whom are only 20 years old -- Newcastle United striker Andy Carroll, Manchester United defender Chris Smalling and Sunderland midfielder Jordan Henderson.
The fourth member of the quartet is 28-year-old Jay Bothroyd, who plays for Championship (second division) leaders Cardiff City and who has 15 goals this season.
While injuries to strikers Wayne Rooney, Jermain Defoe, Darren Bent and Bobby Zamora have limited his choices up front, Capello does seem intent on re-shaping the squad as he attempts to qualify for the Euro 2012 finals.
He knows the match against France will be the toughest his team have faced since the World Cup.
“It’s our hardest game since the finals,” he told reporters before announcing his squad.
“I have seen their squad and it is the best team they can put on the pitch.
“So, when we speak about the young and new players, you have to be careful about the decision to put them into such a difficult game. If they have a bad game it can harm them, but if they do well, it helps the team recover as a whole.
“You have to put them into the team with a lot of seniors.”
Blanc appears to be in no mood to experiment any further than he has done.
His squad includes 10 of the World Cup squad and is almost identical to the one chosen for the last three matches, although he has recalled Barcelona full back Eric Abidal, who last played in France’s 2-0 defeat by Mexico in South Africa.
“Before and after the England tie, we are and will remain in a reconstruction process,” Blanc said.
“This is an opportunity for some players to show against a major opponent that they can settle for good in the team,” he added.
France will be without the inspirational Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery, who returned to action Sunday against Nuremberg after a six-week absence through injury, but London-based Samir Nasri of Arsenal and Florent Malouda of Chelsea will no doubt enjoy a run-out in their adopted home city.
England: Joe Hart; Micah Richards, Phil Jagielka, Rio Ferdinand, Kieran Gibbs; Gareth Barry, Steven Gerrard, Jack Wilshire, Jordan Henderson; Peter Crouch, Andy Carroll
France: Hugo Lloris; Anthony Reveillere, Adil Rami, Philippe Mexes, Eric Abidal; Yann M’Vila, Alou Diarra, Florent Malouda, Yoann Gourcuff; Samir Nasri, Karim Benzema.