France, England to unite in song and solidarity
A communal rendition of the French national anthem will provide the emotional centre-point as France play England at Wembley on Tuesday four days on from the devastating Paris attacks.
The stadium’s bars will shut five minutes before kick-off to encourage fans to observe tributes that will include a minute’s silence, the laying of flowers by team captains Wayne Rooney and Hugo Lloris and the singing of ‘La Marseillaise’, which England’s fans have been urged to join in with.
Breaking with convention, the French anthem will be played second, with the hymn’s lyrics shown on the stadium’s big screens, in order to create a stand-alone moment of solidarity during which the 129 people who died in the carnage that struck the French capital last Friday will be remembered.
“We will sing that together and share in that moment,” said France goalkeeper Lloris, who plays for London club Tottenham Hotspur.
“It will be sung by a great number of English people as well, which will make it stronger.
“This game is a good opportunity to represent the French nation. The French nation is more important than French football tomorrow (Tuesday).”
While British authorities have received no specific intelligence about any planned attacks, armed police will be deployed around the stadium to reassure an expected crowd of around 80,000 that will include Prince William as well as 1,400 travelling supporters.
Fans have been urged to arrive early as security checks are expected to take longer than usual, with the bags of every single person in attendance due to be searched.
Paris’s Stade de France was targeted by suicide bombers during Friday’s attacks, leaving four people dead including three attackers, but the Football Association said that tickets for Tuesday’s game had sold at a healthy rate in the days since. Only around 100 tickets have been returned.
The FA has confirmed that the giant arch over Wembley will continue to be lit in the red, white and blue of the French Tricolor, while France’s motto — ‘Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite’ — will be shown on screens outside the ground.
The match itself promises to be a curious spectacle, with players on both sides having admitted that it will be difficult, if not impossible, to focus on football so soon after Friday’s horrors, which also left over 350 people injured.
– ‘Night of togetherness’ -But all are mindful that the event will serve as a powerful show of unity, echoing FA chief executive Martin Glenn’s declaration that “the eyes of the world” will be on Wembley.
“I’m happy the game’s on,” said Rooney, who is due to return to England’s starting XI after starting Friday’s 2-0 loss to Spain on the bench.
“It shows France wants to show these terrorists they’re standing strong against them, and we have to support that.
“Tomorrow (Tuesday) will be a great night of togetherness for everyone to see, for the terrorists to see the world will go on and stand against them.”
Friday’s attacks claimed by Islamic State touched the France squad particularly closely. The cousin of France midfielder Lassana Diarra, Asta Diakite, was among those killed, while the sister of forward Antoine Griezmann escaped unhurt from the assault on the Bataclan concert hall.
France coach Didier Deschamps praised Diarra’s decision to remain with the squad despite the fact the Marseille midfielder was “hurting to the bone”.
“We can’t forget,” an emotional Deschamps told his pre-game press conference.
“We’ve had two days to get over this immense sadness. Today we’re here and our energy has to be focused on preparing for this match with as much dignity and solemnity as possible.”
Rooney added: “Sometimes, when bad things happen, football is the place where you feel more comfortable. Their players might take that into consideration.”
Euro 2016 hosts France are seeking to record a sixth successive win, following their impressive 2-0 defeat of world champions Germany, while Roy Hodgson’s England are hoping to return to winning ways after their 15-game unbeaten run was ended by Spain in Alicante.
Michael Carrick, Fabian Delph and Jamie Vardy have withdrawn from England’s squad due to injury, with Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Ryan Mason and uncapped Manchester United winger Jesse Lingard drafted in.