Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Classy France expose poor England

A late England rally could not disguise a gulf in class and technique as France earned a deserved victory at Wembley. Fabio Capello gave youth its opportunity in the shape of debutants Andy Carroll and Jordan Henderson - but the friendly provided few positives for the coach as France's quality and composure left England distinctly second best.

Karim Benzema emphasized the visitors' superiority with an early goal, and once Mathieu Valbuena swept home a second from Bacary Sagna's cross just after the break, England were left with too much work to do.

Peter Crouch, on as alternate for the injured Steven Gerrard, capped an England surge of sorts with his 22nd goal in 41 England appearances, but France's narrow margin of victory did not truly reflect the dominance they exerted for so much of the game.

Carroll was passed fit and started, regardless of Newcastle's reservations about his groin injury - and he was one of the few pluses in a harrowing first 45 minutes for England.
With Everton's Phil Jagielka struggling in an unfamiliar right-back slot, France seized control from the start and refused to unwind their grip.
It was one more move which highlighted the difference between the sides as Sagna crossed invitingly for Valbuena to time his run perfectly and glide a finish low into the corner beyond Foster.
England caused minor worry for France after 62 minutes when Gerrard chased Johnson's free-kick to the far post, but his header landed on top of the bar.

Bothroyd was then introduced for his first appearance with 20 minutes left, and was almost presented with the chance to mark his entrance with a goal, but he was just unable to get the final touch after Johnson's shot caused an outbreak of mass confusion in the French penalty area.

After Samir Nasri fired a rising shot against the post, England coach Capello was enforced to introduce Crouch when Gerrard pulled up and limped off with what looked like a hamstring injury.

And Crouch made an instant crash when he stretched out a leg at the far post to turn Ashley Young's corner beyond France keeper Hugo Lloris.

England then attempted to grab an unlikely draw in a frantic final period, but France deservedly survived as the current limitations on the resources available to Capello were exposed.