Odds: France +150, Draw +200, England +220
Over/Under: 2.5 goals (Over +170, Under -225)
FIFA world ranking: No. 6
Recent results: 1-0 win vs. Belgium (06/03/12), 1-0 win vs. Norway (05/27/12), 2-3 loss vs. Netherlands (03/01/12)
Normally the expectations are unrealistically high for the Three Lions but a rash of injuries, a late managerial move and the scheduled two-game absence of Wayne Rooney - the team's lone world-class talent - has England supporters fearing an early exit.
The strength of Roy Hodgson’s team is at the back with keeper Joe Hart and defenders Ashley Cole, John Terry, Joleon Lescott and Glen Johnson.
The midfield lacks pace and creativity but is only being asked to feed the ball wide to the more talented wingers. Youngster Danny Welbeck is expected start as the lone striker against France.
Expect England to execute a conservative game plan throughout the tournament. The club won 1-0 against Belgium and Norway in its two Euro Cup warmup matches.[Related link: Euro 2012 Group D preview and predictions]
FIFA world ranking: No. 14
Recent results: 4-0 win vs. Estonia (06/06/12), 2-0 win vs. Serbia (06/01/12), 3-2 win vs. Iceland (03/28/12), 2-1 win vs. Germany (03/0112)
Les Bleus were a mutinous disaster at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The club has a new manager but still seems to struggle with leadership at the player level. Keeper Hugo Lloris enters the tourney as the team’s captain but he’s the fifth different player to wear the armband under manager Laurent Blanc.
“Do we have someone who can be the coach’s reflection on the pitch like we had in 1998? No,” Blanc told the DailyMail.co.uk
That might not matter. France has speed on the wings, creativity and elusiveness in midfield, and world class finishers up front. Les Bleus are riding a 21-match unbeaten streak and their starting 11 accumulated 54 goals and 44 assists in league play this season compared to England’s 32 and 27.
France is not without weaknesses. Its starting four defenders are old and all coming off forgettable seasons at the club level. Over the posted match total could be a strong play with this team throughout the tournament.Tactics and lineups:
England is expected to play a 4-4-2, with Ashley Young playing just behind the lone striker.
Projected lineup: Hart, Johnson, Terry, Lescott, Cole, Milner Gerrard, Parker, Downing, Young and Welback.
France rolls with a 4-3-3, with Alou Diarra playing as the holding midfielder.
Projected lineup: Lloris, Mexes, Rami Evra, Debuchy, Diarra, Malouda, Cabaye, Ribery, Benzema and Nasri.Prediction:
France 2, England 1
Sources: Goal.com, ESPN.com, DailyMail.co.uk.