England’s final game of the season ended in defeat as they were deservedly beaten by effervescent France in an entertaining friendly in Paris.
Harry Kane provided England with the perfect start when he turned in Ryan Bertrand’s cross after only nine minutes – but the pace and movement of the France attack was soon proving too much for manager Gareth Southgate’s experimental three-man defence.
Burnley goalkeeper Tom Heaton, who played for 45 minutes before being replaced by Stoke City’s Jack Butland, managed to keep out efforts from Olivier Giroud and Ousmane Dembele, only for first Samuel Umtiti and then Djibril Sidibe to pounce and put the hosts ahead at the break.
England were level three minutes after half-time when Kane scored from the penalty spot following a collision between Raphael Varane and Dele Alli which required the intervention of the video assistant referee Marco Guido.
He confirmed referee Davide Massa’s original decision to award the spot-kick, resulting in the sending off of Varane, much to the disgust of the France players and the home crowd.
France, inspired by the brilliance of Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, Borussia Dortmund forward Dembele and 18-year-old Monaco striker Kylian Mbappe, were unbowed and tormented England’s defence. It was no surprise when their winner came 12 minutes from time -and fittingly it was Mbappe who set up Dembele for a powerful, low finish.
It was a night when there were emotional scenes before kick-off, with the crowd singing the Oasis hit Don’t Look Back In Anger and France fans joining England supporters in singing the national anthem in memory of those who died in the Manchester and London attacks.
Kane strengthens captaincy claims
England manager Southgate is at pains to point out that he has made no decision on his next permanent captain – but surely there is now no other choice but Kane.
Kane not only added another two goals to the late equaliser he scored against Scotland in Saturday’s World Cup qualifier, taking his tally to an impressive eight in 19 appearances, he carries himself with an assured air that makes him a natural fit as a player and captain at this level.
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson may come into consideration when fit but Kane is a mature and popular individual who, barring misfortune, will lead England’s attack for years to come.
Southgate may not have made his mind up yet, or at least not made his thoughts public, but it is hard to see anyone but Kane as England’s long-term skipper.