It was only to be expected; Howard Wilkinson had just seven days to prepare after stepping in to coach England following the departure of Glenn Hoddle. He inherited a squad chosen by Hoddle and then was forced to make several changes because of injuries.
Initially, his makeshift team thrilled the 74,000 crowd at Wembley with their enthusiasm and commitment, but chances were wasted and after half- time the elegance and flair of the French, orchestrated by the world footballer of the year, Zinedine Zidane, gave them control. Ironically, England's defence, drawn mostly from the champions, Arsenal, was undone by one of the north London club's many imports from across the Channel, Nicolas Anelka scoring both France's goals.
Wilkinson admitted that the turmoil following Hoddle's sacking had also taken its toll.
"The circumstances were not ideal, but ... you have got to get on with it," he said. "Under the circumstances the players did everything that could be asked of them." Much more will be asked of the players in their next match, against Poland at Wembley next month, when England's hopes of qualifying for the 2000 European Championship will be at stake.
Wilkinson hopes a decision on a permanent England coach will have been taken by then. "From the point of view of the team's prospects it is crucial that the team knows, or the Football Association knows, who is going to be in charge."Reuse content