France v Wales: Benzema the star turn as Euro 2020 favourites fine-tune their side

Didier Deschamps' favourites should win this friendly on Wednesday night but don't write off Wales' chances of scoring, says James Eastham...

Prodigal son returns for les Bleus

You might think France are a side with nothing to prove but the bad news for Wales is that this isn't the case.

World champions they may be, but Didier Deschamps' players know all eyes will be on them as they head into this pre-Euro 2020 friendly against Robert Earnshaw's underdogs in Nice on Wednesday night.

The reason? The inclusion in their squad of Karim Benzema, recalled after five-and-a-half years in the international wilderness.

The Real Madrid striker is back in the fold and his presence on the pitch as France jog out on the Riviera coastline may well have a significant bearing on this game.

France attack set to shine

In normal circumstances you might expect France to go through the motions, treating such a match as a pre-tournament leg-stretcher while ensuring they avoid injury.

This game has greater importance now, however, as it's one of only two opportunities for Benzema to fine-tune his understanding with France's other attackers before Euro 2020 kicks-off.

There's much excitement over the potential on-pitch relationship between Benzema and France's other two attacking superstars, Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann.

Benzema's France appearances alongside Griezmann are a distant memory, and he's never been on the same side as Mbappe.

All three of France's star attackers will want to show they are able to perform together. Deschamps may be tempted to leave them on the pitch together longer than he ordinarily would just days before the start of a major tournament so that the trio can start to form an understanding.

High goals the smart selection

The 1.29 on a France win will be too short to appeal to some, but it's a fair reflection of les Bleus' chances of securing a pre-tournament victory.

And, with the new-look front three potentially set for a significant role, France are worth considering in other markets, too.

France/France in the Half Time/Full Time market is 1.73, while France and Over 2.5 in the Match Odds and Over/Under 2.5 market is 1.91. This second selection has plenty of appeal given the firepower at France's disposal and the desire of the front three - if selected - to make an impact.

Only three of France's last 10 internationals have featured Over 2.5 Goals but home games vs weaker opposition tend to be higher-scoring.

France's recent fixtures against such opposition include a 4-2 win vs Sweden, a 4-2 triumph vs Croatia, a 2-1 victory vs Moldova, a 3-0 win vs Andorra and a 4-1 romp vs Albania. Indeed, only two of their last seven home games vs weaker opposition have failed to yield a home win and Over 2.5 Goals.


Wales may find the net

There were few surprises in Wales' squad announced on Sunday evening, other than Cardiff City's uncapped 19-year-old midfielder Rubin Colwill.

Key and experienced players such as Gareth Bale (pictured above), Aaron Ramsey, Joe Allen, Wayne Hennessey and Chris Gunter were all included.

It remains to be seen how many of the more familiar names interim manager Earnshaw selects for this match.

After this encounter Wales have a home fixture against Albania on June 5 before facing Switzerland in their opening Euro 2020 game a week later.

Wales are 12.0 outsiders to win this game and it would be a massive shock for them to even avoid defeat.

If there's a ray of hope for Earnshaw and his players, however, it's Wales' recent scoring record in internationals.

Wales have scored at least once in 14 of their last 15 internationals. That's an impressive streak for a side lacking international-calibre strikers.

While they've often scored only once in games, it's worth noting that they have shown they can find the net against better opposition.

Harry Wilson scored in the 3-1 defeat in Belgium back in March, while Daniel James scored the winner against Czech Republic (1-0) a week later.

Bale netting in the 1-1 home draw vs Croatia in October 2019, with David Brooks scoring in the 2-1 defeat away to the same opposition in June 2019.

Wales' propensity to find the net lends weight to our primary selection of France and Over 2.5.

The visitors' scoring record also suggests there may be a touch of value in the 2.45 available on 'Yes' in the Both teams to Score? market.

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