England's post-Hoddle phase did not get off to a good start at Wembley when the World Cup holders, France, visited the Twin Towers for a friendly fixture. With Howard Wilkinson as acting coach there were undoubtably changes to the side which probably would not have been made had Hoddle been in charge, however the team was selected from a squad which Hoddle had chosen prior to his departure.
Five years had passed since Lee Dixon had represented his country but he was re-called to the side after injuries to original squad members. His inclusion in the side saw Wilkinson field three Arsenal players in defence, playing with a flat back four.
This most eagerly awaited fixture started with England on the attack. Tony Adams had the chance to give the home team an early advantage when his head connected with a Beckham free-kick but the ball went wide. France quickly followed with an attack of their own with Anelka leading the way. It was a name that England would remember from this game. Time and again Anelka was pressing England but a goal eluded him during the opening 45 minutes.
Despite the visitors domination, Keown had the best chance of the match so far after just over 30 minutes of play. France conceeded a corner, and from the resulting play Keown volleyed the ball over the crossbar from 10 yards. Then just before the half-time whistle England had a free-kick five yards from the goal line but Beckham's effort went high over the bar.
England made a change in goals during the interval - David Seaman made way for Nigel Martyn. France also made a couple of substitutions with Dugarry replacing Pires and Leboeuf going on for Blanc.
Beckham tried his luck just before the hour mark with a great long range shot but Barthez sprinted off his line to avert danger. Two minutes later Zidane had an excellent shot but the ball went wide.
Anelka's first strike of the game came after 67 minutes. Zidane found the Arsenal player in perfect position to slide the ball home and give the World Champions the lead.
The Anelka show continued 8 minutes later when Dugarry did the hard work leaving Anelka to put the ball in the net. This was now going to be a hard task for England to recover from this deficit and looked extremely unlikely when France amost went 3 goals clear through Zidane, but Martyn made a good save. Inbetween the 2 goals Lee Dixon was replaced by Ferdinand after the
Arsenal player was stretchered off after a clash of heads with Dugarry.
England also had to make another change to the team with five minutes to go when Keown pulled up with his hamstring problem. Wilcox was the replacement and Wilkinson seized the opportuntiy to put on Paul Scholes for Jamie Redknapp. The changes though were too late to have impact on the game. France left Wembley 2-0 winners, which is the first time they have beaten England at Wembley.
Seaman (Martyn 46 mins), Dixon (R Ferdinand 72 mins), Le Saux, Ince, Adams, Keown (Wilcox 85 mins), Beckham, Redknapp (Scholes 85 mins), Shearer, Owen (Andy Cole 66 mins), Anderton.
Subs Not Used: Winterburn, Fowler.
Barthez, Thuram, Blanc (Leboeuf 46), Desailly, Lizarazu, Deschamps (Candela 90),
Petit, Zidane, Djorkaeff (Vieira 83), Pires (Dugarry 46), Anelka (Wiltord 83).
Subs Not Used: Porato, Boghossian.
France Scorer: Anelka (69 & 76 mins)
England Cautions: None
France Cautions: None
Referee: H Crug (Germany)