Tuesday’s friendly between France and England at the Wembley Stadium in London will be the most significant match played in recent times because of the shocking events in Paris on Friday.
The France versus Germany game at the Stade de France was played out while terrorist attacks across Paris left more than 140 people dead. The match was also targeted, but the suicide bomber, who had tickets to the game, wasn’t let in by an alert security person, with an explosive device consequently detonated right outside the stadium.
The FFF (French Football Federation) were adamant that the friendly go ahead as planned, despite concerns over security and morale. The English FA extended their full support to this decision and so, at Wembley, the French national side will line up for a game for the first time since the horrific incidents on Friday.
The friendly between the two sides, who have already qualified for Euro 2016, comes off the back of a victory for France over Germany by two goals to nil and England’s loss to Spain by the same scoreline. The full French squad will be flying to England, where their captain Hugo Lloris will lay down a floral tribute on the pitch, before the words of French national anthem ‘La Marseillaise’ are displayed on the stadium screen in the hope that the entire stadium will join in the singing. [via: The Guardian]
It was understood that any player who was concerned over his safety would be allowed to opt out of the England friendly, but it is a telling sign that the full squad chose to participate in the match, including Marseille midfielder Lassana Diarra, who lost his cousin to the attacks and Antoine Griezmann, whose sister managed to escape unhurt from the Bataclan theatre where 89 people were killed.
The English squad will boast youth and vigour, as Man United’s Jesse Lingard and Spurs’ Ryan Mason have been called up to the squad in the absence of Michael Carrick and Jamie Vardy. The likes of Dele Ali, Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley and others will ensure that Roy Hodgson fields a side whose average age will be below 25. The Spain team dominated England in possession and the amount of chances created, which Hodgson will be looking to address in the match against France.
England have a superior win record against France, having won 16 of the 29 matches they have played, but France enter the game in scintillating form, having already beaten world champions Germany with Premier League forwards Anthony Martial and Olivier Giroud combining for the first goal, and Andre-Pierre Gignac heading in the second. Midfielders Blaise Matuidi and Paul Pogba will also look to trouble the English midfield, who were outplayed by Spain.
More than just a football match
The atmosphere surrounding the game at Wembley has become one of defiance, courage and protest against the terrorist attacks carried out in Paris. The players and managers who will be involved in the match have stated its importance in the context of the events of Friday.
The match will not just be a game that can be measured in goals scored, possession, tackles won and chances created. It may well be 90 minutes of gripping, exciting football played between two great footballing nations, but it is much more than a match. It is a message of solidarity. It is a message that shows the power of the beautiful game, and it is a demonstration of the fact that there is no amount of ugliness, hatred and terror, that can take away from the joy and peace of the beautiful game.