After some quite thrilling World Cup qualifiers over the weekend we turn out attention to the international friendlies in midweek, the highlight of which is a match between France and England at the Stade de France in Paris.
Neither side come into the game in good shape after disappointing results in their respective World Cup campaigns. Harry Kane’s late equaliser rescued a point for the Three Lions in Scotland, after it looked like England were heading for a humiliating defeat. France suffered exactly that sort of result as they lost 2-1 in Sweden, goalkeeper Hugo Loris making a fatal error in injury-time which led to the Swedish winner.
This is a chance for opposing managers – Gareth Southgate and Didier Deschamps – to regroup and to test out new players away from the pressure of World Cup qualification. Both are expected to make changes and experiment with formations and systems, but neither can afford to be on the wrong end of another poor result, so that alone should ensure a relatively competitive match.
The game will also be the first time the senior England side has been involved in a match with Video Assistant Referees (VARs). The system is being trialled by FIFA and may even be introduced in time for the 2018 tournament in Russia. VARs were in place for the friendly between France and Spain, and were key to the result as one goal was ruled out and one goal confirmed via the use of video replays.
France v England
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France have the better record between the two nations over the last eight meetings going back to 1992 – won 4, drawn 3, lost 1. However, England have had the better of recent meetings – a 1-1 draw at Euro 2012 and a 2-0 friendly win at Wembley in 2015.
Home form is exceptional for France, having won 13 of the last 15 games on French soil, but the two they didn’t win both came in the last three matches. Les Blues were held to a 0-0 draw by Ivory Coast in November last year, before succumbing to a 2-0 defeat to Spain back in March of this year. A 5-0 friendly win over Paraguay last week was a return to the norm, with Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud notching a hat-trick.
England’s away form is isn’t great. Including matches at Euro 2016, the Three Lions have won five of the last ten away games, drawing three and losing twice. However, those defeats were away in Germany and Spain – two of Europe’s best footballing nations. While both sides would like to win this match, one also suspects that neither would be too disappointed with a stalemate.
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Gareth Southgate has already indicated that Jack Butland and Tom Heaton will each play a half in goal, while there has also been talk of deploying John Stones in a holding midfield role. The 2-2 draw with Scotland once again highlighted England’s defensive frailties and it was another disjointed display from the Three Lions. It’s been five clean sheets in eight games since the Euros, but the quality of opposition has been questionable. England have kept out Malta, Slovenia, Scotland (at home), Lithuania and Slovakia, but they’ve conceded against Germany, Spain and Scotland (away). With a shuffle of the pack and two inexperienced goalkeepers taking 45 minutes each, it would be somewhat surprising if the French don’t get on the scoresheet at least once.
Similarly, France are not a side to rely on to keep the opposition out. Paraguay, Belarus and Netherlands have failed to score against France in the last ten games, but they’ve conceded in each of the other seven matches. The likes of Bulgaria, Sweden (twice) and Luxembourg have all found the net against Les Blues, while better sides such as Italy and Spain have also netted. Monaco’s Mbappe may be set for his second international start, but Deschamp has confirmed that Hugo Loris will retain the captain’s armband despite his howler last Friday night. Harry Kane also retains the England captaincy, and there is enough quality among the English ranks to get on the scoreboard as well.
Norway v Sweden
Finally on the same night, it may be worth having a punt on Sweden to win in Norway at 2.60Bet €100 to win €2608/5Bet £100 to win £260+160Bet $100 to win $2601.60Bet HK$100 to win HK$2601.60Bet Rp100 to win Rp260-0.6250Bet RM100 to win RM260 with Unibet.
The Swedes were predicted by many to struggle after Zlatan Ibrahimovic announced his retirement from international football, but if anything it has had the opposite effect and galvanised the squad. After that 2-1 victory on Friday night, the Swedes are now ahead of France at the top of group A. They’ve won four of six World Cup qualifiers, and have landed some eye-catching friendly results too. A 6-0 victory over Slovakia and a 3-2 away friendly win in Portugal are mightily impressive results, and the Swedes are now on a run of four straight wins.
Norway are second-bottom of Germany’s qualification group with just four points from their six qualifiers. They’ve lost seven of the last ten matches overall, going down to the likes of Belarus, Azerbaijan and Northern Ireland. Even at home they are far from convincing – they’ve lost two and drawn one of the last four games on home soil. These two sides are moving in very opposite directions, and Sweden could be a good value bet to continue their winning streak.
France and England to Draw
Tuesday 13th June, 20:00 GMT
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France v England – Both Teams to Score
Tuesday 13th June, 20:00 GMT
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Sweden to beat Norway
Tuesday 13th June, 20:00 GMT
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- International friendlies