ENGLAND 1 vs FRANCE 2

ENGLAND manager Fabio Capello came out fighting after his decision to field an experimental side backfired on another desperately forgettable night for the national team.

Goals in either half from Karim Benzema and Mathieu Valbuena hardly did justice to the gulf in class between the two sides, with Peter Crouch’s late consolation failing to paper over the cracks.

Asked if the occasion was too much for youngsters Jordan Henderson, Kieran Gibbs and Andy Carroll, Capello said: “Every time I read the newspapers, they say ‘pick the young players’. Well today I did and now you want to talk about the result.

“Young players need senior players around them, experience at this level is very important. You can’t compare this team with France, the inexperience is far greater in our side than in theirs.

“It was important for me to have a look at a couple of young players and see their value.”

To make matters worse for Capello, he became embroiled in a club versus country row over Steven Gerrard, who exited the field with a hamstring injury after 84 minutes.

Liverpool had asked that Gerrard only play an hour, with fitness chief Darren Burgess calling England “completely amateurish” on his Twitter account.

Capello responded, saying: “We spoke with Steve and he said he would play one hour, but after Barry’s injury we had problems. That’s why he stayed on the pitch.”

On a night eerily reminiscent of England’s last defeat at Wembley, to Croatia – rain, a makeshift defence all at sea, an opposition midfield infinitely superior in technique and tactical awareness – it appears that, three years on from that debacle, all that has changed is the nationality of the manager and the absence of an umbrella in his hand. Capello (left) can, of course, point to the absences of John Terry, Ashley Cole, Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard as a legitimate factor behind England’s limp display.

But the excuse that his side were made to pay for their inexperience rings hollow given that France performed with such eloquence and imagination. The combined international experience of their side: 271 caps, the same as England.

Gerrard was one of the few England players to offer any resistance, but he was powerless to prevent Benzema slotting France’s opener in the 16th minute, and was one of the players caught out of position when Valbuena steered home the second 10 minutes after the break. He was already making his way down the tunnel by the time Crouch volleyed home

Carroll’s eagerly anticipated debut was hailed as “encouraging” by Capello, whose side were booed off for the second home game in a row. It is doubtful that many of the 85,495 fans, swathes of whom left early, would be upset if the Italian wasn’t in charge to see the Newcastle striker’s next England performance.