International Football

Euro 2012: England in for a Rude Awakening in Group D Against France

DONETSK, UKRAINE - JUNE 10:  Franck Ribery (L) and Patrice Evra of France during a UEFA EURO 2012 training session at the Donbass Arena on June 10, 2012 in Donetsk, Ukraine.
Scott Heavey/Getty Images
Stephen FennellCorrespondent IJune 11, 2012

Euro 2012 has produced relatively few shocks so far, and England's opening game against France isn't set to be one of them.

Both teams are under the tutelage of new coaches, with Laurent Blanc for France and ex-Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson for England.

While England are coming into the tournament with two wins under Hodgson, France are the owners of a 21-game unbeaten streak stretching back nearly two years.

It takes talent and guile to remain undefeated at the international level, and France have a side packed to the rafters with both.

The noises coming from the England camp are those of quiet optimism, mixed with the reality of the position they find themselves in.

According to Hodgson's interview on uefa.com, he knows that England are up against it when the meet France in Ukraine tonight but feels form isn't a factor:

''It is a stern challenge, we know we're up against it. When you come to European Championships or World Cups, to some extent, having good form or bad form isn't necessarily the factor which is going to be decisive.''

It stands to say that excellent form is dictated by the quality of players at his disposal, and this rings true for the French national team.

For so long England have projected a self-belief that they have the potential to win every tournament they enter.

While you can cast your mind back to Denmark in 1992 and Greece in Euro 2004, both countries had a solid base to work off.

England have had Hodgson in charge for less than two months.

For Euro 2012, it seems there is a quiet realisation that the players needed to win this European Championship are not within England's 23 man squad.

Contrastingly, France have a team the is glittered with talent, most of which would make it into England's starting XI.

Hodgson's views on the French team's attacking that would solidify this observation:

''It's pretty obvious that they have some very very good quality players in their team and its also obvious that in the attacking phase of the game they are blessed with a lot of players whom individually can make an enormous difference.''

With the suspension of Wayne Rooney and the loss of Frank Lampard to injury, England will be dependent on Steven Gerrard to be the creative link between midfield and attack.

While England do have Stewart Downing, James Milner and Ashley Young in midfield, only the latter has had a season you would describe as productive.

Against Samir Nasri, Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema, England will find themselves chasing a technically superior team in what will prove to be an eye-opening experience as to the state of English football on the international stage.

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