Graham Taylor made several changes for the challenge of
France, one of the strong favourites to win the Championship and considered to
be the toughest opposition in England's group. Alan Shearer was brought
in to play alongside Gary Lineker, with David Batty of Leeds introduced to
stiffen the midfield. Andy Sinton was also introduced, with Keith Curle,
Paul Merson and Alan Smith the men stepping down. It was a selection
carefully thought out by Graham Taylor to counter the anticipated French
strengths: he was not to know that the French would adopt the playing
philosophy they did.
Their status as favourites with Holland and Germany was the
result of three magnificent seasons of flowing football under Michel Platini,
with a side that expressed itself in the way he himself had played the game.
So it was to England's immense surprise that they decided to take a cowering,
defensive stance, as if their policy was to move into the semi-final with a
draw against England and by defeating Denmark in their final group match.
It does take two sides to make a match and it seemed that
only England were going for the victory. The consequence was that
England were continually frustrated by France's refusal to open up the match.
Indeed, there was little threat from the twin French striking spearhead of
Jean Pierre Papin and Eric Cantona. They were kept in their place by the
excellence of Des Walker and Martin Keown. Once again the principle
concern for England was a shortage of service into the penalty area, where
Gary Lineker was not enjoying the easiest of contests with his marker, Basile
Boli. It was a barren match for goal chances, but in the 26th minute
England were handed a great opening as a result of a mistake by Bernard Casoni.
The man to profit was Shearer, who cut in for goal from the left.
Lineker had made the perfect run to receive the ball, but sadly Shearer's
cross lacked the quality needed to turn the chance into England's first goal
of the Championship.
But the real frustration of the game came in the second
half, when England won a free-kick 25 yards from goal for a foul by Boli on
Lineker. It was the perfect striking range for Stuart Pearce, whose face
now was bloodied by an earlier head butt from Frenchman Boli. However,
it did not appear to affect Pearce's sighting. He drove a superb
free-kick against the underside of the French crossbar, but as it thudded on
down the wrong side of the line, England's victory chance had gone, leaving
them in need of a win in their final game against the hosts to qualify for the
last four. - The F.A. England Year 1992-93, Stanley Paul & Co Ltd, London,
1992, pages 19 & 20.
A game that was eagerly awaited fizzled out into a tame
draw, with both sides too cautious and frightened of defeat. A Stuart Pearce
free-kick from thirty yards shook the French crossbar, and David Platt was
inches wide with a diving header. There were few other England scoring chances
of note. One of the features of a disappointing game was the struggle for
supremacy between deadly French striker Papin and England
defender Des Walker. Papin was hardly allowed a kick, but managed one moment
of magic when his sudden shot was magnificently saved by Chris Woods. England
were struggling to find the back of the net, and searching questions were
being asked about Graham Taylor's tactics, which for the purists were too much
about the crude long-ball game. -