Wales were facing a stiff challenge against the current world champions France in this pre-Euro 2020 friendly. This became doubly difficult after Liverpool’s Neco Williams was sent off early on for what the referee, after long deliberation, decided was a deliberate handball.
Ten-Man Wales Outplayed by World Champions France
First-Half Red Card
Wales started brightly enough but after a great save by Danny Ward from a Paul Pogba header, the ball fell to Karim Benzema. His goal-bound shot was blocked at close range and after a lengthy VAR delay, with the referee consulting the pitchside monitor, a penalty was given, and Williams was given his marching orders.
Ward stopped Benzema’s spot-kick and it felt that maybe justice had been served for Wales fans. Although the penalty was correctly given, the sending off felt harsh due to Williams’ proximity to Benzema’s effort. There was a movement of Williams’ hands to the ball, but it seemed instinctive rather than premeditated. The ball had been hit with speed from very close range. Given the doubts surrounding the decision, a yellow card would have been sufficient, alongside the award of a penalty.
Kylian Mbappe eventually put France into the lead on 34 minutes. He reacted quickest to a rebound from Ward after a deflected shot, poking home to break Welsh resistance. France’s second came after the halftime break. The goal of the game was excellently taken by Antoine Griezmann. Mbappe had put him into space with a neat backheel, and Griezmann did the rest with a left-footed curler into the top corner and beyond Ward’s outstretched hand.
France wrapped it up towards the end with a third, Ousmane Dembele pouncing on a loose ball after some sharp and incisive work from Benzema. The Real Madrid stalwart was returning to the international fold after an absence of six years.
Wales had some chances of their own, mainly down Dan James’ channel. However, the Manchester United man was unable to get the better of the French number one, Hugo Loris.
Wales will have learnt a couple of things from this encounter. They didn’t capitulate after the sending off, they made some chances of their own, and there were no major injury concerns.
They next face Albania without the suspended Williams before the real tournament business begins in earnest.