Kick Off: Monday 11th June
Live on ITV1 5.00pm
England kick off their rather subdued Euro 2012 campaign against a rejuvenated France in Donetsk on Monday night, and in all honesty they couldn’t have wished for a harder game right at the very start of the tournament.
France have been revitalised under the management of Laurent Blanc, who has steered them in the right direction in the last two years since their shameful World Cup 2010 campaign.
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Blanc promptly dropped the complete 23 man squad which performed so badly in South Africa, and made it clear that nobody was bigger than the team.
Two years on, France are undefeated in 22 matches under the former Manchester United centre back, and they are looking like they could cause real problems in Poland/Ukraine.
Karim Benzema, Sami Nasri, Franck Ribery, Olivier Giroud and a host of other quality players fill the French squad which conceded just 4 goals in qualification, and appear to be peaking at the perfect time, with wins over Iceland, Serbia and Estonia prior to travelling To Ukraine.
England will play their first competitive match under the supervision of Roy Hodgson, and the general consensus is that the former West Brom and Liverpool boss will have the Three Lions playing a tight and defensive game, which was clearly evident in their latest friendly against Norway.
A draw against the French would be a success in Hodgson’s eyes, but you have got to fancy the French to really put them to the test.
After checking the betting markets, the 4/6 about France (draw no bet) looks great value with Paddy Power. Confidence will be high, attacking players are in goalscoring form and England may be up against it here.
With the added insurance of stakes being returned if the game finishes deadlocked, France must be the call at these odds.
As a side bet, Karim Benzema looks too big at 23/10 to score at any time during the game. He was magnificent for Real Madrid last season, only overshadowed in terms of goals by Cristiano Ronaldo, and scored twice in a warm up game against Estonia just a week ago.