England boss Southgate to study options

AFP , Monday 12 Jun 2017

England's manager Gareth Southgate watches on the touchline during the group F World Cup qualifying football match. (AFP)

England come full circle on Tuesday as Gareth Southgate's side finish their season with a trip to France, the scene of their disastrous showing a year ago at Euro 2016.

Twelve months ago England were ousted from the European Championship in humiliating fashion by Iceland, depriving them of the chance to face the hosts at the Stade de France in the quarterfinals and precipitating the departure of manager Roy Hodgson.

Now, with Sam Allardyce having come and gone and with Southgate focused on taking the team to next year's World Cup in Russia, England do finally get the chance to run out at France's national stadium.

Nevertheless, the scheduling of this game in the middle of June, at the tail end of a long season, removes much of the spice from a heavyweight friendly encounter.

The two sets of players will be in a hurry to head for their summer holidays, but first Southgate and his opposite number Didier Deschamps will give chances to fringe players with the Russian World Cup on the horizon.

England travelled to Paris on the back of their dramatic 2-2 draw in Scotland on Saturday, when they were reminded that their place in Russia cannot be taken for granted as skipper Harry Kane grabbed a stoppage-time equaliser.

England had let slip a winning position after Leigh Griffiths twice beat Joe Hart from late free-kicks, and the under-fire goalkeeper will sit out this game. Stoke City's Jack Butland is one of the contenders to play in goal, although he is just back from a long spell out injured.

"Obviously he's only had four or five games back, so we're going to have a think about exactly how we want to approach that game. We will make some changes, for sure," said Southgate.

Others, like West Ham United's Aaron Cresswell, Tottenham Hostpur's Kieran Trippier and Middlesbrough defender Ben Gibson, will hope to feature as Southgate assesses his squad's depth.

"We can't be a team that just relies on one or two players. We've had a couple of players that aren't with us for this camp," said the manager.

"So we've got to be a squad, have strength in depth, and we've got to have competition for places. That will push the players to perform at a higher level."

Mbappe Primed To Start

While England had a Tottenham player wearing the captain's armband to thank for late heroics at the weekend, it was the polar opposite for the French.

Kane's club colleague Hugo Lloris was guilty of a horrible error that gifted Sweden a late winner as France lost their World Cup qualifier 2-1 in Stockholm on Friday.

That has slightly compromised France's hopes of reaching the finals and led to criticism of Deschamps for his conservative approach.

"We went there to get a result but it wasn't to be," the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Blaise Matuidi told reporters on Sunday.

"Now we are looking forward. It is still in our hands. We have three matches at home and one away, so we have a great chance of qualifying."

Les Bleus will have a crunch clash at home with the Netherlands at the end of August and this game offers Deschamps the chance to look at some of his own options.

"It is not going to allow us to recuperate any points. But the game has been scheduled," said the coach, who should give a start to Monaco's teen sensation Kylian Mbappe.

Ousmane Dembele of Borussia Dortmund and Lyon forward Alexandre Lacazette should also feature – a reminder of the incredible attacking strength at France's disposal.

"We need to look at how tired the players are. Despite the defeat (in Sweden), I am not going to change the objective – there will be changes, but I don't know how many."

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