Just to wet your appetite ahead of the big match in Group D of Euro 2012 between France and England this evening, as if it were needed, we have put together a few graphics to suggest who may have the upper hand. There is no doubt that France go into the game as favourites, but is that theory justified?
Roy Hodgson has confirmed that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will start the match ahead of the more defensive option of Stewart Downing, which will no doubt go some way to quashing the claims that the England manager won't take risks this summer. The teenager started just 6 league matches for Arsenal last season, but England will look to use him as an out ball on the counter-attack, with France likely to dominate possession.
Right-back Mathieu Debuchy will be tasked with containing the livewire and will do well to halt the winger's impressive 1.6 dribbles per game from last season, the most in the England line-up, having been beaten by dribbles himself 0.7 times per game on average. Oxlade-Chamberlain also proved that he wasn't shot shy when called into the side by Wenger, and indeed against Belgium in his first international start, averaging 0.9 shots per game last season, with Debuchy's 0.3 blocks per game indicating that the Englishman may get his chances this evening.
When looking down the same flank, this time focusing on France's right-sided attacking threat in Samir Nasri, the City man will hope to torment Chelsea left-back Ashley Cole as he did in the Premier League earlier this year. The above table shows Nasri's stats from the 2-1 win for the league champions back in March, with the Frenchman picking up the man of the match award with a WhoScored rating of 7.96 courtesy of a goal and 4 dribbles. Ashley Cole, on the other hand, had a far more subdued evening and will need to up his rating of 5.98 from that day if he wants to stifle Nasri's threat tonight.
France have been made favourites by most due to the plethora of attacking options they have in the side and with Wayne Rooney suspended for England, it's hard to argue with that opinion. The graphic above shows the attacking stats and averages for the likely starting line-ups, excluding goalkeepers, with Blanc's side obtaining the greater figures in every category.
With Rooney's stats not included, France's XI have scored 19 more goals and registered 16 more assists than England's side, and creatively there is no contest. Les Bleus' men have averaged 1.36 shots, 1.2 key passes and 0.94 dribbles per game, which are all significantly higher than England's figures of 1.13, 0.93 and 0.63 respectively, all adding up to ensure their outfielders' average WhoScored rating is up on Hodgson's side (7.07 to 6.92).
In short and on paper, France should win but we all know football isn't played on paper, so let the battle commence!