Burnley stopper Tom Heaton will make his first start for England when they take on France in Paris on Tuesday night. The 31 year old, who has played for teams across all four tiers of English football, will be under the sticks for the first half, with Stoke’s Jack Butland getting his chance after the interval as both keepers aim to unseat incumbent Joe Hart.
Heaton, a highly rated youngster at Manchester United who didn’t make the cut at Old Trafford, has also plied his trade for the likes of Swindon, Antwerp, Cardiff, QPR, Rochdale, Wycombe and Bristol City, and has earned two international caps off the bench for the Three Lions.
Hart was widely condemned after letting in two free kicks from Celtic’s Leigh Griffiths in Saturday’s World Cup qualifier at Hampden Park against Scotland, and while England manager Gareth Southgate has publicly refrained from criticising the Man City star, whose future at the Etihad is currently uncertain, he did mention that it had been discussed in private.
However France manager Didier Deschamps has refrained from dropping skipper Hugo Lloris despite his error against Sweden that allowed Ola Toivonen to score the goal that jolted Les Bleus’ World Cup qualifying campaign.
Lloris will be up against club mate Harry Kane, who will retain the armband after leading out the Three Lions against Scotland. Kane also scored a 93rd minute equaliser in that game which helped save England’s blushes and denied the Scots a first victory in seventeen years against the Auld Enemy.
The last time England won away in France against Les Bleus was back in 1997. France have won seven of their last nine against all opposition at home, and Arsenal forward Olivier Giroud seems to have struck a rich vein of form, scoring a hat trick in the 5-0 win over Paraguay and then that outrageous goal against Sweden.
With the likes of Giroud, Griezmann and Mbappe in their ranks, it would be hard not to expect Les Bleus to score, and that is shown in the odds. French fans will be quietly confident of them finding the back of the net, and so sure are some of them, that you could expect them to win at the Europalace casino if they tried their hand at it today.
England have not won in their last three away internationals. They’ll also be the slightly more tired team- the French have had a day’s extra rest, having played their World Cup qualifier on Friday.
This is also the first game featuring England that will use VAR (Video Assistant Referee) technology. France are no strangers to it, with VAR being used in their friendly against Spain in March earlier this year. However both decisions made that day went against Les Bleus (Griezmann’s goal disallowed and Deulofeu’s goal allowed after originally not being awarded)
The man with the whistle will be Italian David Massa, who interestingly enough, was also the referee when England beat Portugal this time last year at Wembley.