England's leading scorer in 2016/17 Adam Lallana can add to his tally against France on Tuesday, says Andy Schooler.
Recommended bets: France v England
France v England (2000 BST, ITV)
Quite why England are playing France in a friendly on June 13 I’m not sure, although I suspect money may have something to do with it.
But play they do and while it would be easy to dismiss the contest as a likely snorefest, there are also reasons to believe it could be a good watch.
The primary one is the abundance of young talent which is set to be on display.
In a week which saw England’s under-20s crowned world champions, it should be remembered that Marcus Rashford (19) and Dele Alli (21) are already making an impact on the senior international stage, while captain Harry Kane – the Premier League’s hottest shot over the past three seasons – is still only 23.
However, France’s starlets look even more exciting and there are many across the Channel who feel an impending new era promises to deliver similar things to the one their current manager Didier Deschamps was involved in at the turn of the Millennium. For those with sort (or young) memories, France won the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championship with Deschamps pulling the strings in midfield.
In fact, there have been plenty of calls for the ‘next generation’ to be let off the lease immediately since Friday’s 2-1 World Cup defeat in Sweden which saw Les Bleus knocked off the top of their qualifying group.
Kylian Mbappe is the most high-profile of the players in question but there are plenty of others who appear to have bright futures ahead of them, including Thomas Lemar and a few more of Mbappe’s Monaco team-mates.
Dortmund’s Ousmane Dembele is another, while it’s quite frightening to think that Lyon schemer Corentin Tolisso, himself just 22, couldn’t even make the bench in Stockholm.
Tolisso’s clubmate Alexander Lacazette and English football’s player of the year N’Golo Kante couldn’t get into the French starting XI against the Swedes which just goes to show what England could be up against.
I say could because it’s always difficult when it comes to second-guessing a manager’s thoughts ahead of a friendly.
However, it does seem highly likely that both bosses will make several changes from the teams they picked a few days ago – Gareth Southgate has already said he won’t select Joe Hart and it’s widely expected that Ben Gibson and Kieran Trippier will win their first caps, at least at some point.
As potentially tough as this fixture is, England can take strength from their proven ability to compete with Europe’s big beasts at friendly level in recent times.
It’s just over a year since they won 3-2 in Germany, while they should have beaten Spain at Wembley in November when they blew a 2-0 lead late on. They also defeated the French the last time the sides met (2-0 in 2015), although the context of that match being played in the immediate aftermath of the Paris terror attack should be taken into account.
Given those results, I’m not particularly keen on backing the hosts, who are odds-on across the board.
When looking into this fixture, I felt it worth searching through the history books for games of a similar ilk so I looked up England’s post-season friendlies which were not used as a warm-up for something bigger (ie, a pending qualifier or a major tournament).
As you can probably imagine, there aren’t that many – the last such games were in 2013 when England drew with Ireland and Brazil.
In fact since the dawn of the new century there are just eight games which fit the criteria but perhaps significantly six of those have seen both teams score, and six have featured more than 2.5 goals.
It’s not a huge sample size but the suggestion is that dreary goal-starved games do not result in such end-of-season affairs. If anything, the accumulated tiredness actually creates more opportunities for goals.
Over 2.5 is 5/4 (BetStars) but, of the two, I’d prefer to back both teams to score at evens.
However, with the conclusion being that goals are on the cards I’m going to take a punt on an England player in the goalscorer markets, namely Adam Lallana.
The Liverpool man has been England’s most consistent performer this season and he'll be relishing using his skill and creativity against lauded opponents of this calibre.
Few players in the England side can do what Lallana does and he was comfortably England’s man of the match against Scotland at the weekend.
The criticism he often receives is that he needs to add more goals to his game and two missed chances in the second half at Hampden – in particular a free header – showed that supposed weakness.
Yet the fact is Lallana is England’s top scorer this season with three goals from six appearances. Importantly he also took (and scored) their last penalty in the aforementioned clash with Spain.
He’s on offer at 12/1 in the first scorer market – two of his three for his country this season have been the opener – and that looks tempting enough to warrant a small-stakes, each-way play.
Prediction: France 2-2 England
England have won only one of their last six away games against France (D1 L4), a 1-0 win under Glenn Hoddle in June 1997.
However, the Three Lions did win their last meeting with Les Bleus, in a friendly at Wembley in November 2015 (2-0).
France have won three of their last five friendly games against England (D1 L1).
England have scored just nine goals in their last 11 meetings with France, with three of those being scored by Tottenham players (Gary Lineker in 1992, Peter Crouch in 2010 and Dele Alli in 2015).
France have won seven of their last nine home friendly games, including a 5-0 win against Paraguay last time out in which Arsenal forward Olivier Giroud scored a hat-trick.
Giroud has scored seven goals in his last five starts on home soil for France (excluding Euro 2016).
England have won just one of their last five away friendlies (D2 L2).
The Three Lions have now gone three away internationals without a victory (D2 L1), something they last did in September 2013.
In his last four appearances for club and country combined, Harry Kane has scored nine goals.
Since losing the Euro 2016 final to Portugal, France have lost just twice (W6 D2 L2), but both of those losses have come in the last three games.
Posted at 2005 BST on 12/06/17.