France Vs. England, 2012 European Championships: Bad News, England...

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 02: Steven Gerrard of England looks on during the international friendly match between England and Belgium at Wembley Stadium on June 2, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

England are finally entering a major tournament with no expectations. Surely that means they'll beat France, right? Right? RIGHT?

England were mercifully absent from Euro 2008 thanks to Slaven Bilic and Croatia, but the Three Lions are back in business on Monday. Fabio Capello's John Terry's Roy Hodgson's men take on a revitalized France, and thanks to years of complete and utter clownishness as well as an injury-hit squad that would would struggle to finish in the top ten in the Premier League, for once nobody's expecting them to do anything but turn up and fail.

'Ah, but the lack of expectations will work in England's favour!'

NO IT WON'T. And this is the problem with England. They haven't been a significant force at a major tournament since the 1990s, where they reached the semifinals of both the 1990 World Cup and Euro 1996 (the latter on home soil). The English are lion-hearted warriors, to be sure, but they're also by and large technically incompetent with an astonishing ability to alienate their best players and implode on a moment's notice.


Related: England Team Preview | France Team Preview


France do implosions pretty well themselves, although they seem to have recovered from the paroxysm that ripped through French football in South Africa and that ultimately resulted in Nicolas Anelka's exile to Mercury (I may be a little unclear on the exact details). Two years ago, France were dead. Now they're rising again, with Laurent Blanc even coaching some form out of notoriously moody winger Franck Ribery.

Blanc has a multitude of attacking options at his disposal, spearheaded by Real Madrid ace Karim Benzema. With Yann M'Vila yet to return from an potentially serious ankle problem, he might have some issues in defence, however, with Yohan Cabaye and Alou Diarra having to shield a vulnerable-looking centre half pairing of Adil Rami and Phillippe Mexes.

If a France vulnerability down the centre gives England some hope, a comparison of the names at Hodgson's disposal against their opponents should stop get them from getting carried away. Danny Welbeck or Karim Benzema? Samir Nasri or James Milner? Stewart Downing or Franck Ribery? These aren't particularly difficult choices.

Even the centre, where England should be stronger, may not hold. Chelsea's Frank Lampard and Gary Cahill are both out with injuries. During England's friendly against Belgium, John Terry and Joleon Lescott barely looked on first-name terms - not good for a centre back pairing that will be expected to mark Benzema. Scott Parker looks hobbled and Steven Gerrard will be playing out of position. Hodgson's best remaining central midfielder is his starting right winger.

In other words, England are absolutely, totally and 100 percent screwed.

'Ah, but the lack of expectations will work in England's favour!'

SHUT UP BRAIN. SHUT. UP.

The Young Welbecks

Ashley Young is the only remotely interesting thing about this England squad. That's depressing, but looking beyond that, the Manchester United winger is a legitimately excellent presence in the middle of the park, able to get past defenders, score and pick out key passes. He's no Wayne Rooney, sure, but if he manages to link up effectively with club teammate Danny Welbeck, England will pose at least some threat.

French Triple Threat

If Florent Malouda plays - and one would expect him to, look for France to continually target England right back Glen Johnson with a fearsome trio of Patrice Evra, Malouda and Franck Ribery. James Milner's going to have to work very hard to keep that side under control, but you could easily see France scoring once or twice from attacks down the left side.

Projected Lineups

France (4-3-3): Hugo Lloris; Patrice Evra, Phillippe Mexes, Adil Rami, Mathieu Debouchy; Yohan Cabaye, Alou Diarra, Florent Malouda; Franck Ribery, Karim Benzema, Samir Nasri.

England (4-2-3-1): Joe Hart; Ashley Cole, John Terry, Joleon Lescott, Glen Johnson; Steven Gerrard, Scott Parker; Stewart Downing, Ashley Young, James Milner; Danny Welbeck.

football formations

Monty the Psychic Metal Disk says: I depart from conventional wisdom on this once. England all the way! 2-0. CAUTOIN! SANITISE DATA INPUTS. Error 189e5 B: Ablative nickel coating damaged. Critical mission failure! Immediate restart required!

Game Date/Time: Monday, 12 p.m. ET, 7 p.m. local

Venue: Donbass Arena, Donetsk, Ukraine

TV: ESPN (U.S. - English), ESPN Deportes (U.S. - Spanish), ITV 1 (U.K.), TSN (Canada)

Online: ESPN3

We'll have live coverage in our France vs. England, Euro 2012 StoryStream. For more on Euro 2012 and the entire world of football, follow @SBNationSoccer on twitter.

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