France 3-2 England: Five Talking Points from the Stade de France

1) Dixon familiar with path now trod by Trippier

Among six changes from the side that drew with Scotland England gave one player his debut from the start, with Kieran Trippier ceremonially presented with his shirt by Lee Dixon pre-match. It was a suitable choice: Dixon was a right-back who had to wait until the age of 26, two years after he swapped a relatively unfashionable provincial side in Stoke City for one of the London giants in Arsenal, before he made the first of his 22 international appearances (and his final cap came in a friendly against France). Trippier, meanwhile, is a right-back who has had to wait until the age of 26, two years after he swapped a relatively unfashionable provincial side in Burnley for one of the London giants in Tottenham, before he got the nod. He came out of his first game in credit, with one particularly fine first-time pass creating a chance for Raheem Sterling.

2) Youthful France show thrilling promise

France were theoretically weakened, having made five changes from the team that lost in Sweden on Saturday, but showed thrilling promise throughout. Pogba, Ousmane Dembélé and Kylian Mbappé were the stars. Pogba was simply magnificent, winning the ball, distributing it brilliantly – particularly a couple of delightful dinks over the defence for Kylian Mbappé to run onto – and on one occasion bewildering Gary Cahill on the right wing with his trickery. Mbappé may have wasted a couple of fine chances, foiled by two goalkeepers and a crossbar, but his positioning, movement, awareness and confidence demonstrated why he is currently the hottest property in football. He twice made Phil Jones commit himself by hinting at a right-foot shot before checking back on to his left, and taunted his opponents with his skills near the right corner flag towards the end.

3) England show lack of impressive options

England’s inferior resources showed. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, an attacking midfielder recently played at wing-back by Arsenal, was deployed in defensive midfield and looked lost, though he was not helped by Eric Dier’s mediocrity beside him. Dele Alli made key contributions to England’s goals but spent much of the game on the left wing, where he was peripheral in all senses. In the second half Jones was played out of position at right-back while Kyle Walker came on to play out of position on the left. Compared with their fluent, inspiring hosts, England’s representatives looked slow and clumsy (and not just on the pitch: up in the directors’ box Theresa May launched a strange solo-Mexican-wave-cum-particularly-enthusiastic-offside-appeal). France started with three graduates of their 2013 Under-20 World Cup-winning side; England, whose representatives won this year’s event last week, appeared in dire need of a similar transfusion of youthful brilliance.


4) Midfield misfortunes leave Southgate’s men exposed

Rather than handing control to England, the red card inspired France to greater heights. With 10 men, as with 11, they dominated midfield. The dynamic Dembélé repeatedly escaped attention, and in the buildup to France’s second goal both Alli and Dier pointed at the Borussia Dortmund player as he streaked into space but nobody closed him down. With 11 minutes to go, despite their numerical advantage, England still could not stop him finding room to score. Pogba and N’Golo Kanté were profoundly dominant, with Oxlade-Chamberlain and Dier seeming confused about their positioning and ceding space. Adam Lallana, probably England’s best player over the last year, might have improved matters; this was a night when the only Englishmen whose reputations were not damaged were not playing.

5) Referee hardly assisted by second opinion

Referees have always made mistakes, and frustrating as they are there has always been sympathy for their position, having to take decisions in an instant, while on the move and perhaps unsighted. When video assistant referees are used, however, supporters will rightly feel that no forgiveness is necessary. Just 36 seconds after half-time Alli sprinted into the area onto his own flick-on, was clipped by Raphaël Varane and fell. The referee spent 90 seconds with his finger on his earpiece, while nine French players surrounded him, at the end of which he put the yellow card he had been holding back into his pocket, and instead pulled out the red. It was certainly a penalty, but there was no suggestion of serious foul play and Alli was not significantly held or pushed. The VAR was only called on once, and did not excel.

(The Guardian)