Writer: Tranmere Loyal
Date:Tuesday June 5 2012
As the major participating nations get to the end of their 'warm-up' friendlies, if you looked at France v Estonia tonight you will have seen plenty to worry Roy Hodgson and Joe Hart tonight.
Although Laurent Blanc has also made some unusual additions to his squad, not all of which please all of les francais, there is no doubt that this is a squad in tune, looking in devastating form as they launch their challenge for European supremacy along with Spain.
And with Stretford's finest proclaiming that their men are 'on fire' for England, they look more like damp squibs when compared with certain performers in foreign colours who during a regular season ply their trade at the Etihad.
With Spain playing the Peoples Republic of China, it was David Silva who delivered the winning goal as he tries to cement his place in the starting eleven for his nation.
The Red Tops are desperately trying to sell El Magico to Real Madrid and it pleasing that his agent is telling the world that he is settled in Manchester, enjoying his football and is delighted to be a champion having won two iconic trophies in his first two seasons.
But for France tonight there was a host of talent on show, amongst which was Samir Nasrti who played most of the match knitting together the best moves which invariably included the born-again Ribery who scored a superb goal and Benzema, who can't always get a starting slot at Madrid but who scored two sensational goals tonight as he, Nasri and Ribery took a carving knife to the Estonian defence. OK you might say it was only Estonia. Tonight they became the first nation to complete the package of playing against every other UEFA listed nation. It has taken them twenty years so why haven't those nations who have been around forever achieved that?
With France's midfield and front line in full swing tonight as the scoreline would suggest it was great to see Evra struggling. For a while he has been automatic selection at left back but has recently started to play like he believes that, not only for his country but also at a place just outside Manchester. At club level this has been recognised and many local critics believe the Red-nosed Knight should be lining up a replacement. La Belle France have a ready made one waiting for the moment that Evra delivers his next sub-standard performance. Oh yes he's called Gael Clichy. A Champion. No going through the motions there.
My favourite image of Evra is where he puffs his cheeks out when City got the third goal at Old Trafford. Even he didn't know that the scoring from City's point of view was only half complete. And how refreshing is it to see him under pressure from an excellent City player, who's just had the season of his life. Who would you select? A has-been who never was or a wonderful young pacy attacking left back who can tackle and defend as well. A man who began his footballing career quietly at City's feeder club and who doesn't whinge every time he thinks he hears someone call him names. It's a no-brainer for me.
So the first match in England's Euro encounter is against the second favourites and believe me Joleon will have his work cut out against Benzema who tonight was simply excellent. A tremendous forward who keeps himself alive in the box is always a dangerous proposition and he looked the part tonight. His first goal was a joy to watch. He looks exactly like City would like either Dzeko of Balotelli to be, so if Mr Mourinho is looking to re-stock or de-stock this close season you won't be getting the crown jewels in the form of Silva, but I'm sure Karim would love to play alongside Nasri and Clichy each week. Ferguson has been a long time admirer and a long time non-afforder of this exceptional footballer. He would be wasted amongst the mid-table cannon fodder being assembled in bargain-basement fashion along Chester Road.
So Joe and Joleon will have to get their shackles out next Monday. Milner will almost certainly be tasked with preventing Ribery getting a free run at Johnson, who he will annihilate. It's all hands to the pump for City's players whilst whichever combination of Stretfords and Scousers are selected up front get the time of their lives up against Evra and Mexes. Still France have the second best goalie in the world in Lloris another of the non-affordables coveted next to the Bridgewater Canal.
Despite all the furore about Ferdinand being a world class experienced defender it is perhaps best that he is not facing up to the reality of Benzema next week. In this form he will destroy whichever back line England can perm from what they have left and my fear is that if Joe isn't totally 'at it' it will not make great viewing.
At times when England has produced forwards capable of destroying the world why is it now that the focus is on our great net minder to keep out the opposition? Perhaps it is a symptom of the type of football that England are purveying right now. It will take more than the QPR/Chelsea style tactics to keep this French team at bay. As QPR found out, you can do it for so long but then a touch of class opens the door.
In Nasri, Ribery and Benzema, the touches of class are lining up, just as did Tevez, Nasri, Silva, Balotelli, Dzeko and, wait for it, Aguerooooooooooooooooo.
I wish my nation good luck. I feel they will need it. I wish Milner, Lescott and Hart all the best luck. Much of killing off the French threat will be down to them.
Date:Tuesday June 5 2012
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