England manager Roy Hodgson says the game against France at Wembley on Tuesday will “not be a normal friendly”.
The match takes place against the backdrop of terror attacks in Paris last Friday, when 129 people were killed.
The words to the French national anthem – La Marseillaise – will be displayed on Wembley’s stadium screens to encourage all supporters to sing along in a display of solidarity with the families of the victims and the French nation.
Further pre-match tributes are planned and, in light of the French Football Federation’s determination for the game to go ahead, Hodgson believes the match has a significance that stretches far beyond the outcome of a contest between two of football’s heavyweight nations.
“I understand fully the French authorities had a very clear opinion on playing the game so it was very easy for us to go along with that,” Hodgson told a news conference.
“We will do our best to make a really good game of it but can’t deny the seriousness of the situation. We can’t deny the game is special – it’s not a normal friendly.
“The game is happening only four days after this unbelievable terror attack and unfortunately that’s going to be lingering over everybody, whether we like it or not.”
“We can’t deny that there is something hanging over this game that is far, far greater than a football match or a football result.
“I can’t imagine how this game is going to go and what sort of football is going to be played, quite simply because I’ve not been in this situation before – I’ve not played a game four days after a tragedy of this immense proportion.
“The game is to go ahead and we will prepare and try to play the best game we can play but we can’t deny there are other issue at stake.”
Hodgson confirmed to reporters that Fabian Delph became the latest player to withdraw from the squad due to injury on Monday, with Tottenham’s Ryan Mason called up in place of the Manchester City midfielder.
England are set to field something of an experimental line-up as a result, but Hodgson felt the weight of emotion surrounding the match made it difficult to discuss football tactics with any conviction.
“I’ve got to say I’m finding it hard to balance the enormity of the occasion with questions about the football players,” he said.
“I don’t quite know how to balance that up. Maybe when the game starts it will retain an element of normality for me as a manager.”
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