Euro 2012: France v England match preview

England’s Euro 2012 campaign finally gets underway against Group D favourites France in Donetsk on Monday.

Roy Hodgson’s men have endured an injury-hit build-up the tournament with four players withdrawing from the squad since it was announced last month.

But the England boss has confirmed there are no further fitness concerns in the camp and the team are raring to go amid an atmosphere of scaled-back expectations going into this competition.

A key reason for that, as well as the high-profile withdrawals and omissions, is the absence of Wayne Rooney for this game as he serves the first of a two-game suspension for his red card in Montenegro last year.

And the rest of the team will need to be near their best given that the Three Lions start as underdogs against Laurent Blanc’s side.

France are unbeaten in 21 games under Blanc and will be looking to erase memories of the shambles that occurred under Raymond Domenech at the World Cup two years ago.

Les Bleus finished bottom of their group with the team in disgrace after boycotting training in South Africa but French supporters may prefer to look back to the memory of when these sides met in 2004.

France won in the sides’ opening game of Euro 2004 despite being behind when the clock struck ninety minutes.

That tournament was England’s last taste of European Championship action until this game. The so-called Golden Generation are all but gone. But Hodgson will be hoping that could yet work in England’s favour.

Team news

England’s only guaranteed absentee is Rooney through suspension with several key players having shaken off problems.

John Terry and Ashley Cole were slight concerns over the weekend but the Chelsea pair look set to take their place in the team.

Terry is likely to operate on the right of the two central defenders rather than his favoured left in order to accommodate Joleon Lescott.

Danny Welbeck seems to have fought off the challenge of Andy Carroll for the lone striker role so Hodgson’s biggest dilemma will be who to play in the wide positions.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain pressed his claims for a chance in the warm-up games, while Theo Walcott will be hoping to finally make his bow at a major tournament six years after failing to get off the bench at the 2006 World Cup.

But the new England boss is likely to adopt a cautious approach and select the more defensively-minded wide-midfielders James Milner and Stewart Downing given a draw would be considered a positive result.

France have a settled line-up with Blanc’s only concern being in defence after Patrice Evra and Philippe Mexes failed to impress in recent weeks.

Gael Clichy and Laurent Koscielny are pushing for starts but Blanc is expected to favour the more experienced duo for the group opener.