France vs England
The bookmakers have France at 2.40 favourites to England’s 3.00. That may be right, though the result is certainly not cut and dry. With extra time an option in both managers’ arsenal to affect open play from the bench, don’t be surprised for either camp to hold out until the 90 minutes whilst the scoreline remains level.
The game will likely be won and lost in wide areas, most notably with Luke Shaw versus Ousmane Dembélé and Kyle Walker against Kylian Mbappé. If both prove a stalemate, England may be able to capitalise in transition. With it being so hard to call – the 3.25 price is inviting.
Neither side will want to show their hand too early and Southgate is pragmatic in these scenarios. He’ll aim to nullify the threats posed to his side before they look to capitalise. Odds alone suggest a very even contest and man for man, you’re splitting hairs. France have huge threats in wide areas but their injuries pre-tournament perhaps leaves something to be desired in the middle of the park.
The hype surrounding England versus France is expectedly mounting, with Kyle Waler versus Kylian Mbappé taking the lion’s share of the limelight. Yet, on the other side, Luke Shaw is in for an arduous afternoon. Ousmane Dembélé is a whippet, fleet-footed with a turn of pace to ghost past the quickest of defenders.
England’s left-back is no slouch, but he’s no stranger to a booking, either. Domestically, Shaw averages 1.4 fouls per90 in the Premier League, with three yellows in nine starts. Last season, Shaw found himself in the referee’s notebook eight times in just 19 starts.
England maintained discipline in the groups and in their match against Senegal. The 3 Lions are the only side yet to receive a card, but I’d be near certain that that trend ends in this match. England also didn’t receive a card in their Euro 2020 group run, however when they faced off against a sterner opponents, it all changed. Southgate’s men racked up 3 cards when they met Germany in the round of 16.
As much as we’ll look to nullify Mbappe, it’s hardly a tactic that hasn’t been deployed on him before. He’s been devastating so far this tournament and regardless of how much we can shut him down, I can’t see him not getting some efforts off on goal, even if he is restricted to distance shooting.
Mbappe has averaged 3.02 shots on target P/90 and of course, leads the race for the Golden boot with his 5 strikes so far. We saw against Poland just how little room he needs to work the angle for a shot, with his 2 goals both coming from far from easy situations.
If our plan to deal with him is successful, I still fancy this. Mbappe is, for the want of a better word, a bit of a selfish player. Always looking to go things alone and often frustrated when things aren’t going his way. If we shackle him, he only becomes more likely to unleash shots in frustration.
in the one ‘test’, England had so far, in drawing 0-0 with USA we allowed Christian Pulisic to hit 4 shots. That included him striking the woodwork. I’ve no doubt that from 4 shots, Mbappe would land at leats half on goal.
I’ll back this selection until he retires from international football. With England’s threat from set pieces and the focus of them on to Harry Maguire, all we need is for him to get his massive dome on one. It doesn’t even matter if it goes nowhere near the goal.
He’s had 4 shots across the tournament so far, the only match he’s failed to register one in was the game against Senegal and even then, he was still a magnet for that ball in to the box. It just unfolded that the situations led to him looking to knock the ball back across the goal rather than going for glory himself.
Maguire was England’s 2nd top scorer during qualifying, only behind Harry Kane and averaged 1.27 shots P/90. Set pieces will be absolutely crucial for England in such a tight game and Maguire will no doubt be integral to the plans.