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Peter CROUCH 86’

Att. = 85,495

Karim BENZEMA 16’

Mathieu VALBUENA 55’

International Friendly

Ref = Claus BO LARSEN (DEN)

Wembley Stadium

ENGLAND suffered a sickening defeat to rivals France on Wednesday (17 November). This is the national side’s first home loss under coach Fabio Capello.

The home team almost scored after just two minutes; Steven Gerrard had his free-kick comfortably saved by French keeper and captain Hugo Lloris.

France then utterly dominated the next period of the game. England keeper Ben Foster almost spilt Florent Malouda’s shot before Karim Benzema scored at the near post after a lovely passing move between himself and Malouda. But England did have some chances in the first-half but they were few and far between. Gerrard blasted a shot over and debutant Andy Carroll could only provide Lloris with some catching practice.

The first real action of the second-half came ten minutes in. Bacary Sagna crosses the ball into the box and Mathieu Valbuena seemed to appear out of thin air to guide the ball into the back of the net for 0-2 to the visitors.

Gerrard almost pulled a goal back for England just after the hour mark, but his header from a free-kick landed on top of the crossbar. Seven minutes later Carroll again saw his attempt on the French goal saved by Lloris. With just 15 minutes left on the clock a game of pinball broke out on the edge of the French penalty area, but alas England couldn’t make the ball go in the hole.

The clock now said 80 minutes and England were getting desperate. Gerrard shot wide after Lloris spilt the ball, and France almost capitalised on England going forward but Samir Nasri hit the post.

With only five minutes left Steven Gerrard injured his hamstring and had to be replaced by Peter Crouch. It later emerged that the FA had told Liverpool that Gerrard would only play 60 minutes. Stuff was written and stuff was said in the heat of the moment and I hate to disagree with the club I support, but he was playing for a different (and more important) team when he got injured.

Less than a minute later England finally scored thanks to the long legs of Peter Crouch. The 6 ft 7 in striker arrowed the ball into the roof of the French net from a corner for his 22nd international goal in only his 42nd appearance.

Why is Crouch never started? He is a proven international goal scorer, so why is he left on the bench?

England almost equalised in the 92nd minute through new boy Jay Bothroyd but again Lloris caught the shot and secured his nation the win. Capello’s team had finished the stronger side, but over the whole 90 minutes France where the worthy victors.

Now, I was rather ill on Wednesday night (and missed school on Thursday and Friday because of it) and watching this made me feel even worse. The only consolidation England fans had at the World Cup in the summer was that we weren’t France. They publicly fell out with each other and brought shame to their nation in such a way that a government enquiry was launched into what the hell went wrong.  They also had to live with the shame of France being ranked as low as 27th in the world (no disrespect to Denmark who are currently ranked 27th in the world).

But the management was changed and the troublesome players were banned. The side is on the up and doubtlessly France’s time will come again. But England are just the same old team, the same old management, the same old high hopes, and the same old disappointment.

Going into this game England were ranked 6th in the world by FIFA, France were 21st. On the evidence of what I saw on Wednesday night I wonder if FIFA got their sums the wrong way around.

Some other friendly internationals from Wednesday night

Argentina 1 – 0 Brazil

Hong Kong 0 – 7 Paraguay

Netherlands 1 – 0 Turkey

Northern Ireland 1 – 1 Morocco

Portugal 4 – 0 Spain

Republic of Ireland 1 – 2 Norway

Romania 1 – 1 Italy

South Africa 0 – 1 U.S.A.

Sweden 0 – 0 Germany

(Tuesday) Scotland 3 – 0 Faroe Islands

Euro 2012 Qualifiers

Croatia 3 – 0 Malta GC

Finland 8 – 0 San Marino

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