France-England talking points

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Last Updated: 13/06/17 10:55pm

Harry Kane scored twice but England were beaten by France

Harry Kane scored twice but England were beaten by France

Harry Kane scored twice but England were beaten by France

Harry Kane scored twice but England fell to a 3-2 defeat to 10-man France in their international friendly clash at the Stade de France.

Kane’s early opener was cancelled out by Samuel Umtiti, with France going in front thanks to Djibril Sidibe’s strike shortly before half-time.

The Tottenham man levelled from the penalty spot after Raphael Varane was controversially sent off for fouling Dele Alli, but Ousmane Dembele won it for France despite England’s man advantage. Here are five talking points from the game…

Midfield issues for Southgate

Southgate has started four different central midfield partnerships in his first eight games in charge of England but seems little closer to finding the right combination. After Jake Livermore was picked alongside Eric Dier in the 2-2 draw with Scotland, this time the job fell to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

France won the midfield battle as Paul Pogba impressed

France won the midfield battle as Paul Pogba impressed

France won the midfield battle as Paul Pogba impressed

The Arsenal man finished the season playing at wing-back, so it was hardly surprising that he looked rusty in midfield, misplacing seven of his 17 passes in a particularly difficult first half. Dier fared little better, with his loose ball deep in England’s half in the closing stages leading directly to the decisive goal.

France duo Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante enjoyed total dominance over their England counterparts even after Varane’s sending off, showing greater energy and imagination in and out of possession and leaving Southgate with plenty to ponder. Central midfield looks increasingly like a problem position for the England coach.

Mbappe shows his class

There was no first international goal for Kylian Mbappe on his fifth appearance for France, but the Monaco prodigy still managed to show why Real Madrid, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool are reportedly willing to spend upwards of £100m to secure his signature.

Mbappe was a constant menace to England’s back three, playing off the shoulder of the last man and looking to get in behind at every opportunity. There was an element of over-eagerness in some of his wayward finishing and offside positioning, but his speed and trickery stretched England right up until the final whistle.

Kylian Mbappe celebrates with France team-mate Ousmane Dembele

Kylian Mbappe celebrates with France team-mate Ousmane Dembele

Kylian Mbappe celebrates with France team-mate Ousmane Dembele

It seemed he might get his goal when he found a pocket of space between Phil Jones and Gary Cahill in the 78th minute, but instead of going for goal himself he showed great composure to set up the similarly impressive Dembele to score. Mbappe’s suitors will have liked what they saw.

Kane strikes again

After netting England’s equaliser against Scotland on Saturday, Kane was back in the goals at the Stade de France. The stand-in captain was in the right place at the right time to convert Ryan Bertrand’s cross for the opener, and he kept his cool to slot his penalty past Spurs team-mate Hugo Lloris after the break.

It took him to 11 goals in his last five games for club and country. And while it wasn’t quite enough for England on Tuesday night, Southgate will still be pleased to see him beginning to transfer his Tottenham form to the international stage on a consistent basis.

Heaton or Butland?

After Joe Hart’s much-criticised performance against Scotland at the weekend, Southgate gave Burnley’s Tom Heaton and Stoke’s Jack Butland a half each against France. So which of the shot-stoppers came out on top?

 Jack Butland shows his frustration after Dembele's winner

 Jack Butland shows his frustration after Dembele's winner

Jack Butland shows his frustration after Dembele’s winner

Butland will probably be the happier of the two. Heaton’s first England start began with an awkwardly gathered cross from Benjamin Mendy, and there were question marks over his handling for France’s first two goals. Heaton saved the initial efforts on both occasions, but could only push the ball back into dangerous areas for Umtiti and Sidibe to score.

Butland, meanwhile, could do little about Dembele’s winning goal but did produce two fine saves from the menacing Mbappe. The 24-year-old will be hopeful of starting when England return to international action in September.

VAR controversy

Varane’s sending off was a reminder that using a video assistant referee does not necessarily end debate surrounding key decisions. The Real Madrid centre-back was given his marching orders after tangling with Dele Alli for England’s penalty – but only after referee Davide Massa had called for assistance.

The straight red card was justifiable as Varane did not appear to make any genuine attempt to win the ball, but it still seemed overly harsh to many viewers. VAR or no VAR, these decisions ultimately boil down to the different ways in which the laws can be interpreted.

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