Roy Hodgson's reign as England manager will begin tonight in Donetsk against a France team that is high in confidence compared to the team that suffered from 'les bleus' in South Africa. Hodgson has a good record so far for England, with two 1-0 wins over Norway and Belgium, but now he will be given his first test in a continental tournament. England have gone into the tournament in usual fashion amid controversy between players, suspensions, squad selection and of course, injuries.
England are without Gary Cahill, Kyle Walker, John Ruddy and Frank Lampard going into this tournament, all out through injury. Wayne Rooney has to serve a two-match ban making him only available for our last group game against Ukraine, whilst players such as Rio Ferdinand, Adam Johnson, Daniel Sturridge, and Micah Richards have been left out of the squad.
Hodgson has decided to go with youth ahead of experience when it comes to back up for his first eleven. Liverpool's Jordan Henderson and Martin Kelly have been called up to replace Frank Lampard and Gary Cahill, despite not being the fan's favourite choices. Whilst Danny Welbeck, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Phil Jones have come in looking to shine in their first European tournament.
Gerrard will captain the side, but the true selection headache for Hodgson is up front. Welbeck has been impressive all season and in training in Poland, whilst Andy Carroll has proved to be in good form for Liverpool come the end of the season and is an aerial threat. Jermaine Defoe is another option but seems to be considered as a definite substitute.
Ashley Young is seen as the most likely option to sit behind Welbeck as Wayne Rooney would do so. With both players coming from Man United, they know how to play together, but Young taking a central role might not be as effective as to if he was placed on the left wing as he has done so impressively for United in his first year for them.
France will be looking to go 22 games unbeaten under their manager Laurent Blanc tonight, as he has brought a new atmosphere around the French camp that has made their humiliating scenario in South Africa a minor glitch in the French revolution.
The last time these two teams played in a European Championship was in 2004, and France won that game in extra time, leaving England with an eight-year absense from the Euros since then.
Blanc will be looking towards his midfield to dominate the game, with Newcastle's Yohan Cabaye showing this season what he is capable of, and Man City's Samir Nasri and Bayern Munich's Frank Ribery enjoying their partnership in midfield. Questions are still being raised over the fitness of Arsenal target Yann M'Vila, but England will need to look out for Real Madrid's deadly striker Karim Benzema.
The key behind an England win tonight may be the use of possession alongside playing the long-ball to the tall men up front, but only Roy knows what tactics he will employ in order to get off to a winning start in the Euros. But it's not going to be easy as France will be looking hungry for success and prove that they can compete as a team at the highest stage of football ahead of the World cup in Brazil.
Possible line ups:
France (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Debuchy, Rami, Mexes, Evra; M'Vila, Cabaye; Ribery, Nasri, Malouda; Benzema.
England (4-4-1-1): Hart; Johnson, Terry, Lescott, Cole; Milner, Gerrard, Parker, Downing; Young; Welbeck.