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England v France: Wembley pays a fitting tribute following Paris tragedy

England 2 - France 0

By Glenn Moore

Published 18/11/2015

Wayne Rooney scores England's second goal
Wayne Rooney scores England's second goal

The most important point about last night's match at Wembley was that it took place at all, but today Roy Hodgson will still sit down and analyse the DVD as if it were a conventional pre-tournament friendly.

He needs to because England have only four matches at most before Euro 2016 and the manager needs every one of them if he is to construct a cohesive team. But he also needs to because this match should have meaning beyond the fact of it happening. The show, like life itself, needs to go on.

Of all the words spoken in the build-up, among the most potent were those of a mother from Shropshire, here with her family.

The tickets had been bought as a birthday treat for her six-year-old. She was asked if she feared bringing her children, given the horror in Paris. Her reply was to say they discussed the issue with the children and wanted to demonstrate to them that they should not live in fear, that they should not be put off by acts of terror. The birthday was to be celebrated.

In the same spirit Dele Alli should be able to look back on his first international goal, and Eric Dier his first Wembley start, with a sense of joy, not sadness. And Hodgson should be able to believe this match had value when weighing judgement on his players.

It did, at least as much as most international friendlies. In some respect the strange, unique atmosphere was a good test of a young English footballer's temperament - though it would be unfair to judge their opponents by the same measure.

Just as in a high-pressure tournament match, the key to a good performance was setting aside the background and concentrating on the game.

To the players' credit, especially the visitors, the birthday boy, the 71,000 other fans, and both managers were treated to an often authentic match, very much in the style of modern international football. Which is to say it was largely a contest played in midfield with lots of quick, short, sideways passes as both sides probed for an opening.

If the absence of much pressing high up the pitch betrayed a lack of intensity, there were still some feisty tackles, not least the one on Morgan Schneiderlin made by Alli before his goal.

The goal capped a good half by England, who had initially seemed more unsettled by the circumstances of the match than their visitors. It was as if, like the England fans, they felt it good manners to cede the stage to their visitors.

Football fans draw English and French flags on their faces before the start of the international friendly match between England and France at Wembley Stadium in west London on November 17, 2015. AFP/Getty Images
Football fans draw English and French flags on their faces before the start of the international friendly match between England and France at Wembley Stadium in west London on November 17, 2015. AFP/Getty Images
England players stand side by side with their French counterparts before the international friendly match at Wembley Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday November 17, 2015. See PA story SOCCER England. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to FA restrictions. Editorial use only. Commercial use only with prior written consent of the FA. No editing except cropping. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 or see paphotos.com/info for full restrictions and further information.
England's Wayne Rooney (centre) and his team-mates stand side by side with their French counterparts before the international friendly match at Wembley Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday November 17, 2015. See PA story SOCCER England. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to FA restrictions. Editorial use only. Commercial use only with prior written consent of the FA. No editing except cropping. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 or see paphotos.com/info for full restrictions and further information.
Mounted police outside Wembley Stadium in London where the French football team is playing England in a friendly tonight. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday November 17, 2015. The Duke of Cambridge, Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will be among those in the crowd in a show of solidarity after the deadly attacks on Friday night. See PA story POLICE Paris. Photo credit should read: Chris Radburn/PA Wire
Supporters hold a Che Guevara flag prior to the International Friendly match between England and France at Wembley Stadium on November 17, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
France's goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris (R) and France's defender Laurent Koscielny sing their country's national anthem before the start of the friendly football match between England and France at Wembley Stadium in west London on November 17, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ADRIAN DENNIS NOT FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING USE / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USEADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images
British Prime Minister David Cameron (L) and France's coach Didier Deschamps (C) are pictured as they observe a minute's silence before the start of the friendly football match between England and France at Wembley Stadium in west London on November 17, 2015. AFP PHOTO / IAN KINGTON NOT FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING USE / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USEIAN KINGTON/AFP/Getty Images
England manager Roy Hodgson, (L) British Prime Minister David Cameron (3rd L), Britain's Prince William (4th L) and France's coach Didier Deschamps (R) are pictured as they observe a minute's silence before the start of the friendly football match between England and France at Wembley Stadium in west London on November 17, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ADRIAN DENNIS NOT FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING USE / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USEADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images
Football fans hold flags and take pictures before the start of the international friendly football match between England and France at Wembley Stadium in west London on November 17, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ADRIAN DENNIS NOT FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING USE / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USEADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images
An England fan holds a banner before the start of the international friendly football match between England and France at Wembley Stadium in west London on November 17, 2015. AFP PHOTO / IAN KINGTON NOT FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING USE / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USEIAN KINGTON/AFP/Getty Images
Football fans are pictured before the start of the international friendly match between England and France at Wembley Stadium in west London on November 17, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ADRIAN DENNIS NOT FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING USE / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USEADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 17: Wreaths are plaed prior to the International Friendly match between England and France at Wembley Stadium on November 17, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 17: French players line up for the team photos during prior to the International Friendly match between England and France at Wembley Stadium on November 17, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
England fans are pictured before the start of the friendly football match between England and France at Wembley Stadium in west London on November 17, 2015. AFP/Getty Images
A France fan in the stands wears a France football shirt in tribute to the victims of the terror attack in Paris prior to the international friendly match at Wembley Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday November 17, 2015. See PA story SOCCER England. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to FA restrictions. Editorial use only. Commercial use only with prior written consent of the FA. No editing except cropping. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 or see paphotos.com/info for full restrictions and further information.
France's Paul Pogba arriving before the international friendly match at Wembley Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday November 17, 2015. See PA story SOCCER England. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to FA restrictions. Editorial use only. Commercial use only with prior written consent of the FA. No editing except cropping. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 or see paphotos.com/info for full restrictions and further information.
Fans in the stands holding a flag reading "Thanks to the world le Chagnot" in tribute to the victims of the terror attack in Paris prior to the international friendly match at Wembley Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday November 17, 2015. See PA story SOCCER England. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to FA restrictions. Editorial use only. Commercial use only with prior written consent of the FA. No editing except cropping. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 or see paphotos.com/info for full restrictions and further information.
A France fan in the stands wears a France football shirt in tribute to the victims of the terror attack in Paris prior to the international friendly match at Wembley Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday November 17, 2015. See PA story SOCCER England. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to FA restrictions. Editorial use only. Commercial use only with prior written consent of the FA. No editing except cropping. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 or see paphotos.com/info for full restrictions and further information.
Armed police on watch outside the ground before the international friendly match at Wembley Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday November 17, 2015. See PA story SOCCER England. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to FA restrictions. Editorial use only. Commercial use only with prior written consent of the FA. No editing except cropping. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 or see paphotos.com/info for full restrictions and further information.
England fans Tom, Dan and Taylor McGuigan and Paul Mallen from Mansfield show their support outside the ground before the international friendly match at Wembley Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday November 17, 2015. See PA story SOCCER England. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to FA restrictions. Editorial use only. Commercial use only with prior written consent of the FA. No editing except cropping. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 or see paphotos.com/info for full restrictions and further information.
Fans outside Wembley Stadium in London where the French football team is playing England in a friendly tonight. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday November 17, 2015. The Duke of Cambridge, Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will be among those in the crowd in a show of solidarity after the deadly attacks on Friday night. See PA story POLICE Paris. Photo credit should read: Chris Radburn/PA Wire
Armed officers outside Wembley Stadium in London where the French football team is playing England in a friendly tonight. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday November 17, 2015. The Duke of Cambridge, Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will be among those in the crowd in a show of solidarity after the deadly attacks on Friday night. See PA story POLICE Paris. Photo credit should read: Chris Radburn/PA Wire
Armed officers outside Wembley Stadium in London where the French football team is playing England in a friendly tonight. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday November 17, 2015. The Duke of Cambridge, Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will be among those in the crowd in a show of solidarity after the deadly attacks on Friday night. See PA story POLICE Paris. Photo credit should read: Chris Radburn/PA Wire
Football fans arrive outside Wembley Stadium for the start of the friendly football match between England and France at Wembley Stadium in west London on November 17, 2015. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEALLEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images
Fans paint the French flag on their faces before the start of the friendly football match between England and France at Wembley Stadium in west London on November 17, 2015. AFP PHOTO / IAN KINGTON NOT FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING USE / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USEIAN KINGTON/AFP/Getty Images
France fans hold up French flags before the start of the friendly football match between England and France at Wembley Stadium in west London on November 17, 2015. AFP PHOTO / IAN KINGTON NOT FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING USE / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USEIAN KINGTON/AFP/Getty Images
Football fans wave French flags before the start of the friendly football match between England and France at Wembley Stadium in west London on November 17, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ADRIAN DENNIS NOT FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING USE / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USEADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images
Football fans hold up a French flag before the start of the friendly football match between England and France at Wembley Stadium in west London on November 17, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ADRIAN DENNIS NOT FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING USE / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USEADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images
Football fans are pictured before the start of the friendly football match between England and France at Wembley Stadium in west London on November 17, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ADRIAN DENNIS NOT FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING USE / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USEADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images
France's headcoach Didier Deschamps (L) is pictured on the pitch before the start of the friendly football match between England and France at Wembley Stadium in west London on November 17, 2015. AFP PHOTO / IAN KINGTON NOT FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING USE / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USEIAN KINGTON/AFP/Getty Images
Two British Counter Terrorist Specialist Firearms Officers (CTSFO) carry their machine guns as they patrol inside Wembley Stadium ahead of the friendly football match between England and France at Wembley Stadium in west London on November 17, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ADRIAN DENNIS NOT FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING USE / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USEADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images
Football supporters are interviewed by the media outside Wembley Stadium in west London, on November 17, 2015, ahead of the international friendly football match between England and France. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEALLEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images
Armed police patrol outside Wembley Stadium in west London, on November 17, 2015, ahead of the international friendly football match between England and France. AFP PHOTO / ADRIAN DENNISADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images
Armed police stand outside Wembley Stadium in west London, on November 17, 2015, ahead of the international friendly football match between England and France. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEALLEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images
Robert Williams and his son Kian pose with a French and English flag outside Wembley Stadium in west London, on November 17, 2015, ahead of the international friendly football match between England and France. AFP PHOTO / ADRIAN DENNISADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images
Robert Williams and his son Kian pose with a French and English flag outside Wembley Stadium in west London, on November 17, 2015, ahead of the international friendly football match between England and France. AFP PHOTO / ADRIAN DENNISADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 17: A french fan dressed in the colours of the french flag and adorned with the logo of the Eiffel tower, which was used after the Paris attacks, arrives ahead of tonight's International friendly match between England and France on November 17, 2015 in London, England. Security in London has tightened after a series of terror attacks across the French capital of Paris on Friday, leaving at least 129 people dead and hundreds more injured. (Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 17: French fans pose for photos dressed in the colours of the french flag as they arrive ahead of tonight's International friendly match between England and France on November 17, 2015 in London, England. Security in London has tightened after a series of terror attacks across the French capital of Paris on Friday, leaving at least 129 people dead and hundreds more injured. (Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 17: A french fan poses with a hat adorned with the french flag as he arrives ahead of tonight's International friendly match between England and France on November 17, 2015 in London, England. Security in London has tightened after a series of terror attacks across the French capital of Paris on Friday, leaving at least 129 people dead and hundreds more injured. (Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 17: Two Chelsea Pensioners arrive ahead of tonight's International friendly match between England and France on November 17, 2015 in London, England. Security in London has tightened after a series of terror attacks across the French capital of Paris on Friday, leaving at least 129 people dead and hundreds more injured. (Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images)

Perhaps then it was wise for Hodgson to start with Joe Hart, despite the pressing need for Jack Butland to gain international experience. The Stoke City keeper can hardly be said to have learned much from his previous outing, his first 90-minute one, in Lithuania last month when he was effectively a spectator.

Starting with Hart suggested that Hodgson, after the chasing Spain gave England in Alicante last week, did not trust his reshaped defence to protect their keeper in those first, potentially emotional 45 minutes.

Hart did, indeed, have to be alert in denying Anthony Martial early on, later rushing from his line to intercept Hatem Ben Arfa's smart pass.

Butland was granted a game after the break, and made a good save from Martial, but by then the attention was very much on Alli.

He and the more subdued Ross Barkley played in tandem ahead of Dier with Harry Kane as the front man, Raheem Sterling wide and Wayne Rooney filling spaces in one of those free roles.

This fluid forward line worked well. When in range of goal Kane shoots on sight, and does so powerfully and accurately, but in deeper positions he has a fine eye for a pass and Alli should have done much better with one raking ball.

Rooney played as if he had a point to prove after being omitted in Spain and the way he had the measure of Laurent Koscielny recalled Manchester United-Arsenal matches of the Sir Alex Ferguson era.

Sterling, too, was lively at times, if given far too much space to pick out Rooney for the latter's goal. At that point it began to look as if the French had been drained, mentally and physically, by the wrenching emotion of the last few days. Just as one feared for them, however, Lassana Diarra appeared, which lifted his team-mates.

The eye, though, kept being drawn back to Alli and those orange boots that also pack a shot and a tackle. If Alli maintains his soaring progress it will be hard to quieten the clamour for him to be handed a starring role.

And so what if there are hype and headines? As long as Alli is well-advised and level-headed it is a harmless enough pursuit. Football, as Carlo Ancelotti likes to say, is "the most important of the less important things in life", and it felt good to be concentrating on it again.

Man United are sweating over the fitness of Martial - substituted in the 67th minute - ahead of Saturday's trip to Watford after the striker left Wembley on crutches and with his left foot bandaged.

ENGLAND: Hart (Butland 46),Clyne,Cahill,Stones,Gibbs,Dier, Alli (Jones 88),Barkley (Shelvey 79),Rooney, Sterling (Lallana 68),Kane (Bertrand 79).

Subs Not Used: Smalling,Walker,Mason,Lingard,Heaton.

Goals: Alli 39,Rooney 48.

France: Lloris,Sagna,Varane,Koscielny,Digne, Schneiderlin (Sissoko 82),Cabaye (Diarra 57),Matuidi (Pogba 46), Ben Arfa (Coman 46),Gignac (Giroud 57),Martial (Griezmann 67).

Subs Not Used: Mandanda,Jallet,Evra,Perrin,Mangala,Costil.

Man of the match: Dele Alli (above)

Attendance: 71,223

Referee: Jonas Eriksson (Sweden).

Belfast Telegraph

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