Tuesday, 17 November 2015

England 2 v France 0 - International match

Tuesday 17th November 2015
International Friendly
at Wembley Stadium
England (1) 2
Bamidele Alli 39, Wayne Rooney 48
France (0) 0
Attendance - 71,223
A view from Wembley Way, 6pm, Tuesday 17th November 2015
1 Hart (13 Butland 45 mins), 2 Clyne, 3 Gibbs, 4 Dier, 5 Cahill,
6 Stones, 7 Alli (14 Jones 88 mins), 8 Barkley (17 Shelvey 79 mins), 9 Kane (16 Bertrand 80 mins), 11 Sterling (20 Lallana 68 mins), 10 Rooney
Unused subs - 12 Smalling, 15 Walker, 18 Mason, 19 Lingard,
21 Heaton
1 Lloris, 15 Sagna, 4 Varane, 21 Koscielny, 17 Digne,
22 Schneiderlin (18 Sissoko 83 mins), 6 Cabaye (12 Diarra 57 mins), 14 Matuidi (19 Pogba 45 mins), 8 Ben Arfa (20 Coman 45 mins), 10 Gignac (9 Giroud 57 mins), 11 Martial (7 Griezmann 67 mins)
Unused subs - 2 Jallet, 3 Evra, 5 Perrin, 13 Mangala,
16 Mandanda, 23 Costil
Royalty, national team managers and government leaders pay their respects
The last time that I watched France play at Wembley, was during Fabio Capello's misunderstood reign as national team manager... and it marked one the most dismal and below par performances that I have ever had the misfortune to witness by any England team ever... and believe me, there have been a few serious contenders for that 'accolade' over the years!
France's narrow margin of victory did not truly reflect the dominance they exerted for so much of that particular game, as they won 2-1, with a goal in each half from Karim Benzema and Mathieu Valbuena.
Jay Bothroyd and Stephen Warnock both came on late in the second half in a bid to freshen things up for Capello's team on the night... and Peter Crouch netted England's only goal four minutes from time, having just come on in place of the injured Steven Gerrard.
But a lot of the 85,495 crowd that night, wouldn't have seen Crouch touch home Ashley Young's corner with an outstretched boot, because there had been a flood of people hemorrhaging through the exits since ten minutes into the second half, just after France had scored their second goal. 
It would have been really funny if England had snatched a late equaliser, but wholly unreflective on how the respective sides had performed over the entire 90+5 minutes.
Moving swiftly on to November 2015:
On Friday night, Roy Hodgson's England side fell to their first defeat in 16 games, in Alicante, when they went down 2-0 against the reigning world champions, Spain.
It was only a friendly and some of the names on an experimental teamsheet weren't entirely what I would've expected to have seen in the final countdown to a major tournament, but the England manager, Roy Hodgson, has been on a bit of a roll, so let's be optimistic and give him some credit that everything is going to plan. 
Hodgson does actually know what he's doing and is adept at getting the team playing to their strengths... and working hard, collectively to overcome their weaknesses. 
But, with all due respect, the team's in England's Euro 2016 qualifying group, never have and never will, be among the big hitters in world football, whilst the opposition they now face in the warm up games for the tournament in France, are a cut above what they've been used to playing against for quite for a while now.
Not that I would want to take anything away from a monumental achievement of such a lengthy unbeaten run, but in spite of a record breaking run of results, this is still a team going through a transitional phase. Personally, I trust Hodgson 100% with the ongoing development of the national side.
Of course, given the recent catastrophic events outside of 'planet football', i.e. in the real world, which is inhabited by some truly disgusting and brainwashed savages, who have created carnage and murdered countless innocent victims in Beirut and Paris over the past week, London is visibly on a state of high alert at present.
The question has arisen, of why the Beirut attacks and those in Nigeria earlier in the year, weren't given the same level of blanket coverage, by our national media news outlets, as the atrocities in France on Friday night have been.
However that is a discussion that possibly needs debating elsewhere and this isn't the right place for that kind of thing.
But, on this sceptred isle of ours, where you can see the French coastline from Dover on a clear day, the killing spree in Paris happened far too close to home for comfort, which understandably means our own media is focussing far more of their attention on events that are taking place just a short distance away, across the English Channel.
The French are our very near neighbours... and though any act of terrorism, anywhere in the world, that claims so many innocent lives, should be afforded the same measure of compassion and a proportional amount of humanitarian aid and media attention, the geographical logistics of what happened in Paris on Friday night, are the reason that this country showing such a massive amount of solidarity with France at this terrible time.
A train travelling through the channel tunnel takes just 35 minutes to complete its 31 mile journey and as many as 400 trains, carrying a combined total up to 50,000 passengers, use this route daily.
The French only live next door... there but for the grace of God.
Yesterday (Monday) the FA and Wembley Stadium released the following statement:
Supporters coming to Tuesday evening's fixture between England and France are advised to get to Wembley Stadium as early as possible to avoid queues and to support commemorations of the tragic events in France.
Following extensive liaison between The FA, FFF, UK Government and the relevant security authorities the game against France will go ahead.
Fans can be assured that all appropriate security measures are in place for the fixture which includes extensive searches upon entrance to Wembley.
Fans should arrive as early as possible to avoid any delays in entering the Stadium. For your convenience it is preferable for supporters not to bring bags and there will be increased bag searches upon entrance.
Tickets will not be available to buy from the Stadium Ticket Office on the day so supporters are asked not to attend Wembley if they have not pre-purchased their tickets.
Before kick-off The FA plans to appropriately remember Friday's Paris incidents and encourages England fans to support the following initiatives:
- England fans are asked to respect the French national anthem, La Marseillaise, the words of which will be displayed on screens inside the arena
- La Marseillaise will be sung after God Save the Queen, in a change of protocols
- Materials will be on seats in the east side (England Home End) of the stadium, which will form the French Tricolore when fans hold them aloft during the anthem
- A minute's silence will be observed prior to kick-off
- Please ensure that you take your seats no later than 19.55 to observe the minute’s silence and national anthems
- Both teams will wear black armbands during the game
- The England team will make a gesture of solidarity to the French team prior to kick-off
The FA will also continue to light the Wembley Arch in the blue, white and red of the Tricolore as well as displaying the national motto of France, Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, which stands for liberty, equality and fraternity.
The FA would also like to advise all supporters that our planned activity with Breast Cancer Care will be delayed to a later date, with the full support of our official charity partner. We would like to thank all who have made donations to this point and helped in raising vital awareness for such an important cause.
In this regard, anyone purchasing the programme on Tuesday night or who has received it via postal delivery should note there is no reference to Friday night’s tragic events because of printing deadlines. As indicated, The FA will be showing its support to the people of France throughout the fixture – both in stadium and across all of our other media channels.
We thank all supporters for their understanding at this difficult time.
Tonight, despite the full ticket price, the transport costs (that always increase whenever England are playing at home) and the healthy rivalry that exists between these two countries on the field of play; this fixture itself had become something of an irrelevance as a sporting event... it was, when all's said and done, just a game of football, not a matter of life and death.
But, to the watching world, particularly to those barbaric terrorists, both overseas and in our own midst, this was a defiant stance, a loud statement that the civilised world aren not running scared from the type of cowards who will attack theatres, sporting events, restaurants and family outings.
An international friendly football match, grew in enormity, symbolically, the moment that both nations governing bodies, security forces and football associations, decreed over the weekend, that the game was still going ahead.
At first when the 'game on' announcement was made, I pondered over whether it would be wise, or even sane, to still attend this fixture... but quickly reached the conclusion that there was no way on earth that I was going to be bullied into not attending by propaganda merchants and scaremongers.
Some people who had match tickets and had arranged travel and time off work, opted not to be at the national stadium tonight... and nobody could blame them for taking that decision. 
Being met at London Underground stations by armed police officers and getting searched several times earlier in the afternoon whilst gaining entry to our usual trail of public houses, was an otherworldly experience, that must've had even the hardiest of travellers wondering if staying indoors and watching the game on ITV might have been a better option.
But 71,223 people opted to stand united, shoulder to shoulder and send out a clear message, that extremists are not going to stop the overwhelming majority of people, from going about their usual day to day business, regardless of the beliefs of those among us, who misguidedly think that the world is on the run from their reign of terror and warped ideologies.
That said, tonight's Germany v Netherlands game in Hanover was postponed just 90 minutes prior to kick off, following a security tip off from French police, about an allegedly planned terror attack, which possibly accounted for the number of empty seats in Wembley Stadium as some people had a last minute change of heart about attending this game.
A windy night.
Jack Butland helps to remove a Vauxhall advert from the pitch
Joining in with 'La Marseillaise', the French national anthem, which was sung in unison by supporters of both teams prior to kick off, was a big ask for a lot of the England fans present. Not because they were adverse to the idea, but although it was a heartfelt and noble gesture, I would imagine that the majority of the crowd weren't actually French speakers... and displaying the words on the big screens wouldn't have been much help for most people present either.
But this protocol was observed as well as could possibly be expected of a Wembley crowd, that a large percentage of, wouldn't have even known that their own national anthem has more than just an opening verse... and the respectful silence was observed completely by all present.
Oh... and amidst all of the solidarity, defiance, camaraderie and unbreakable human spirit on display, there was also a football match tonight as well.
England played very well in the event, amid a strange, restrained and eerie atmosphere... and deservedly beat France for the first time in 18 years, since a narrow 1-0 win in Montpellier at Tournoi de France, on 7th June 1997, when Alan Shearer scored the only goal of the game. Glenn Hoddle was the national team manager back then, and the current French manager Didier Deschamps, was still a stylish and influential midfield player for his country.
In the six subsequent games between these two teams since that victory in Montpellier, two games were draws but France won the other four.
FAQ: Are England going to win the Euro 2016 championships?
Ha, ha! Don't be daft, but under Hodgson, a major rebuilding programme is taking place.
He sometimes comes across as awkward in front of press conferences, but so what? It's his coaching nous and in depth knowledge of the game that is making a major difference to the England team, not his press soundbite capabilities.
"Close to faultless" was how Hodgson described goalscorer Dele Alli, on his first full start in an England shirt after making three previous appearances from the bench. 
Alli has represented his country at U17, U18, U19 & U21 level, before being elevated to the first team squad. Regardless of the traditional national pastime of rubbishing the England football set up, this kind of thing tends to suggest, that although there is still some way to go, the FA coaching blueprint and DNA set up, is making some great strides in the right direction.
Tonight, Roy Hodgson's line up had an average age which was lower than any of the current Premier League sides.
Alli himself started the move that led to his goal, when he won the ball in midfield with a tenacious tackle, before charging towards the French goal and taking a return pass from Wayne Rooney before letting fly past Hugo Lloris, shortly before half time.
Three minutes after the restart, Alli was involved again, when he dispossessed Paul Pogba and laid the ball out wide to Raheem Sterling, whose cross fell invitingly for Rooney to smash his 51st England goal past the covering defender Laurent Koscielny and the French keeper Lloris from six yards out.
Deschamps side, understandably, weren't entirely on top of their game tonight, though they had made a lively start to the game and showed some nest touches towards the end for twenty minutes. 
But Hodgson's young charges had shown enough tonight to demonstrate that the England national team is making steady, but impressive progress.
Jack Butland, another player who has come up through the FA's development ranks, did more than enough in the second half, to show that Hodgson has a competent and able back up keeper as cover for Joe Hart, should the need ever arise.
Not much of a blog about the game all told, but tonight, the game itself was of secondary importance, in comparison to the myriad of other far more important things that it came to represent.
FT: England 2 v France 0
Although the English fans had witnessed a decent performance from their national side tonight, the celebrations at the end were nevertheless a bit muted and subdued, given the circumstances under which the game had gone ahead.
The walk beneath that tunnel at the end of the Empire Way, that leads to the stairs up to Wembley Park tube station, where you're all packed in together like sardines; is never the most enjoyable part of a visit to the national stadium. But tonight, probably more than usual, most people (i.e. everybody) obviously wanted to get that part of their journey home over more quickly than usual.
The London Metropolitan Police, packing (on full display) a quite staggering arsenal of firearms, the extra London Underground staff and the barely disguised plain clothes officers in attendance, made light work of getting thousands of football fans out of the area in double quick time and should be applauded for their efforts.
Football united ne sera jamais vaincue... la solidarité
L'EQUIPE front cover... received via a picture text message I received in the wee small hours, several hours after tonight's game had finished, while I was heading home, somewhere between Peterborough and Grantham, on the snail paced and malfunctioning ECML Virgin East Coast locomotive from Kings Cross.