Good morning, and welcome to Group D action! While the nation of Ukraine braces for its yellow-and-blue-off with Sweden later today, we’ve got the pomp and pageantry of France and England — two nations which have obvious history (l’histoire, if you’re French) with one another. Will the French make you forget the epic Waterloo meltdown that was World Cup 2010? Will Welbeck + Young really be as good as having Rooney, as Alexi Lalas was explaining on ESPN’s fancy 3-D hologram soccer table yesterday? Let’s go to Donetsk, where it’s apparently warm. Because it’s warm, the French might, according to ESPN, break out their ice vests at halftime. Mmmmm, ice vests.
Your lineups and liveblog after the jump:
1966 World Cup Champions: (4-4-1-1) Hart; Johnson, Terry, Lescott, Cole; Milner, Gerrard, Parker, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Young; Welbeck. Subs: Not Rooney, Cahill, Berry, or Rio Ferdinand.
Les Blues: (4-3-3) Lloris; Debuchy, Rami, Mexès, Evra; Cabaye, Diarra, Malouda; Nasri, Benzema, Ribéry. Subs: Les Autres (though M’Vila’s probably out, to the dismay of transfer watchers everywhere).
Pregame: Lalas says that English fans are “not delusional” about their chances, and notes that the Ox is starting (which might not be so good, given the performance of Arsenal players at the tournament so far). “Sweltering” has been dropped twice in the first three minutes of the telecast. (Ice vests!) They’re going to Martinez for his soccer know-how — unlike Liverpool! (Hey-O!) And Michael Ballack is getting more wooden by the day. They could just go with a cardboard cut-out of Ballack by the quarterfinals.
Note: 86 degrees = “sweltering.” That’s good to know here in Austin.
Anthem Report: Ribery opts for winking rather than singing.
We have kickoff!
2′: England on the attack after some possession in midfield, but the ball’s played by Welbeck/Young to Young/Welbeck offsides.
3′: OX! He steals the ball in France’s third of the field, but then gets stripped of the ball. Still, though, England rejoices at Roy’s lineup mastery. (For now.)
5′: Benzema goes on his first run of note, wins a corner, but Nasri’s play-in amounts to very little.
7′: Nasri’s first flop of the match. Probably not his last.
10′: France wins a corner on a beautiful ball from Cabaye to Ribery in the box. Hart watches the subsequent cross bounce off his hands, but England clears.
11′: Nasri gets jiggy with it from just outside the 18, but his shot goes wide of the post.
13′: ACTION! Ribery moves goalward, France taps some passes around to Benzema, who does not much, and England attempts a counter.
14′: CHANCE FOR ROY’S BOYS!: Another counter for England, Milner manages to work it around Lloris, and then shoots it into the side netting.
16′: ANOTHER CHANCE! This one for France — Cabaye takes a shot, but Hart’s able to nudge it out of the way before it creeps inside the post.
18′: OX! Steals another ball, gets it out to Young, who’s offsides. Young’s displeased, and gets a little shoulder-slappy with Malouda.
21′: Welbeck down!
23′: We’ll be getting some stoppage time to end the half. Welbeck back up, and Parker sends a through ball that rolls straight to Lloris.
26′: More offsides for England.
27′: Cabaye launches a pass over Benzema’s head, and Benzema berates him for a while, incorporating the international sign for “AT MY FEET!”
29′: Free kick for England from about 25 out. Gerrard’s taking it.
30′: GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAALLLLLL ENGLAND! Gerrard launches a perfect ball, catches Lescott’s head on the far post, and it goes in. No, France, he wasn’t offsides.
32′: Close-up of Lescott’s forehead a reminder to all of us what a perfect target it is for set piece headers.
34′: Discipline! Yellow card for Ox. And CHANCE! Nasri’s free-kick swings in to Diarra, who heads it goalward. Hart deflects, Ribery heads to Diarra, who heads it into Hart’s palms. England escapes the best French threat of the game thus far.
39′: GOOOOOOOAAAAAALLLLLL FRANCE! Les Blues doink it around the box, with Ribery playing it to Nasri just outside the 18, and he places it squarely next to the post. Hart dives but can’t quite get there. We’re even again.
45′: Only a minute of stoppage time? Looked like Welbeck was rolling around on the ground for longer than that …
But it’s halftime. Man City 2, England 1, France 1. Let’s all go to the lobby.
And we’re back on …
47′: Discipline! Ribery slaps Parker on the nose, Parker goes down and rolls around until the ref pulls out the yellow card.
49′: RUT-ROH — Hart has to come out on Milner’s sloppy pass-back when Nasri jumps in front of it. Nasri could have been in Golden Boot contention there.
53′: Gerrard gets bumped in the box by Debuchy, falls, rolls around in PAIN! PAIN! but doesn’t draw the foul.
54′: Danger! Evra runs down the left flank, sends in a sweet cross that Gerrard has to kick away for a corner. The resulting corner doesn’t amount to more than another attempted header by Diarra.
57′: Ian Darke is telling travel stories while there’s possession in the midfield. Then Johnson rudely interrupts by making a run. Ribery shoulders him down, but no foul is called. Crowd shot of indignant English fans.
62′: Extreme close-up of Ribery’s ass as they show a slow-motion collision with Gerrard. England wins two corners in a row but can’t do anything with them. Although Terry gets his head on one, albeit wedging the ball into a defender. John Terry: I forgot he was out there.
64′: CHANCE! Benzema lets it rip from 25 out, but Hart snuffs it out before it reaches the goal.
67′: Andy Carroll’s warming up! HOLLA!
70′: Discipline! Young gets booked for a tackle on Benzema. And this game is begging for some substitutions.
74′: ACTION! Nasri plays in to Benzema but they can’t quite connect, and then England gets a chance at the other end but the ball rolls to Lloris. Then Ribery has a beautiful cross across the goalmouth to absolutely no one.
76′: Pain! Milner gets bumped by Ezra at the edge of the box, and he’s prone on the ground, barely clinging to life. No, I think he’ll be okay.
77′: SUBSTITUTE! Defoe on for the Ox, Henderson on for Parker.
79′: PAIN! Ribery is elbowed on the nose by Johnson, and rolls around holding his beautiful face. Nasri takes the resultant free kick, and Diarra tries another header. We will now have a corner — which Cabaye almost volleys in. England does well to bump that back for a corner, which Nasri plays directly to Hart.
84′: Subs for France: To keep Toons happy, Ben Arfa in for Cabaye, and Marvin Martin in for Malouda.
88′: CHANCE! Welbeck slid on to the end of a cross, but couldn’t aim the ball into the goal.
90′: As Bill Cosby might say, “THEOOOOOO!” Walcott on for Welbeck for our three minutes of injury time.
90′ + 3: France holds for the last shot, which is a 25-yarder from Benzema that Hart scoops up easily.
TWEEEET! Full time — and all the City players find each other for some hearty handshakes and hugs. Our work is done here … stay tuned for the yellow-and-blue off, and names that are much harder to spell in a liveblog, coming next.
(Last note: Michael Ballack is not impressed. Thank you for that.)