A show of solidarity against terrorism
England, France show how football can be a weapon against evil
(Dele Alli 39, Wayne Rooney 48)
England were the victors yesterday morning (Singapore time) but the outcome was incidental.
History will record the 2-0 scoreline, Dele Alli's wonder strike and Wayne Rooney's close-range volley - yet none of it mattered.
What Roy Hodgson would otherwise have deemed a scalp in his preparations for next summer's European Championships was consigned to mere afterthought.
In the wake of last Friday's terror attacks in Paris, football's significance became secondary.
From those embers of atrocity, however, it attempted to provide a shining light in an international friendly that embodied every sense of the word.
On an evening bookended by renditions of the French national anthem La Marseillaise, Wembley preached France's core values of motto of freedom, equality and friendship.
Blue and white stood shoulder to shoulder on the circumference of the centre circle during an eerie yet impeccable minute's silence.
The France players who stepped out on the pitch have yet to come to terms with the personal trauma from the terror attacks which rocked their nation's capital.
For Lassana Diarra and Antoine Griezmann, two players who were directly affected, it may be an eternal struggle.
Diarra returned to Wembley in far heart-rending circumstances than when he had lifted the FA Cup with Portsmouth in 2008.
Playing through the devastation of losing his cousin among the 129 people killed in Paris, the midfielder became a pillar of strength for his teammates.
Griezmann, too, served as an inspiration after the Atletico Madrid forward discovered that his sister managed to cheat death and escape from the massacre of the Bataclan theatre.
Winning is considered paramount in football but, given the circumstances, taking part was all that could be expected from Les Bleus.
There has been no respite since they endured the aftershocks of three suicide bombings close to the Stade de France, six days ago.
For Les Bleus, it has remained business as usual to the bitter end.
Didier Deschamps and his players have come to represent a symbol of their nation's defiance.
It was a status they have gracefully accepted even though it was, in truth, not one which was bestowed with any real choice.
Noel Le Graet, the French Football Federation's president, announced the decision to press ahead with the friendly without requesting any input from Deschamps or his players.
It was another sign of the long-running disconnect between the national body and their team.
They are not held in the same esteem as the "Rainbow Warriors" that, against a backdrop of right-wing adversity, united the country with a triumphant World Cup campaign in 1998. Their courage may go some way to bridging that gap ahead of Euro 2016.
The similarities between the class of '98 and its latest incarnation are striking.
Deschamps will remember more than most the disruption that surrounded the tournament in their homeland.
He was France captain when talisman Zinedine Zidane was sent off midway through the group stages - a fate comparable with Karim Benzema's recent absence.
The Real Madrid striker's omission, albeit in a different scenario, had triggered an identity crisis within the front line ranks, to the point that France have been depicted as the invisible man.
Such dilemmas, and indeed those which surround Euro 2016, seem somewhat irrelevant at this time.
Life will attempt to move on and so will football as it returns to some semblance of normality this weekend.
But, events at Wembley offered a chance to begin the healing process.
“i thought it was a very poignant occasion... As far as we’re concerned, an act of defiance is more important than the other alternative.”
— Roy Hodgson “proud” of his players and the fans at Wembley for honouring the victims of the Paris attacks.
“Everyone has his way of displaying his emotions but it was certainly a moment where everyone came together. it was heart-rending — you felt it deep down in your gut.”
— France coach Didier Deschamps hailing the match at Wembley as a triumph of the human spirit
Alli stays grounded
Dele Alli's remarkable ascent continued with a Man-of-the-Match display on his first England start, but there seems no chance of the teen getting carried away.
Just about half a year after helping hometown club MK Dons out of League One, the 19-year-old has established himself at Tottenham and shone for Roy Hodgson's men at Wembley yesterday morning (Singapore time).
TNP INFOGRAPHICS: TEOH YI CHIE
As impressive off the ball as he was on it, the midfielder's first international start brought with it a memorable goal as he took aim from 25 metres and beat club-mate Hugo Lloris as half-time approached.
Alli then started the move finished by Wayne Rooney to wrap up a 2-0 win on a night when England stood shoulder-to-shoulder with France just days after 129 people were killed in the Paris terror attacks.
"It was important that we showed we are here for them and thinking about what happened," Alli said of the touching night of solidarity.
"It was a tragedy. It was an emotional night for both teams and I think it showed before the game.
"But I think it was important that we focused on the game as soon as that whistle went and I thought we played well.
"Obviously to get the goal here at Wembley (was great), but I think it was important that we got the win and, thankfully, I got the goal."
Alli's rise certainly shows no signs of abating and his performance on just his fourth England appearance certainly puts pressure on the experienced midfielders currently sidelined.
"I am not going to look too far forward - I've still got a lot to learn," the level-headed midfielder said when the subject of Euro 2016 was broached.
"I am just going to go back to my club and keep doing as well as I can and, whatever happens, happens."
Alli remains "grateful even to get the call-up" and plans to frame yesterday morning's matchday shirt after his England teammates all signed on it.
Hodgson praised the teenager, saying his performance was "almost faultless".
"That was as close as you can get to it. He was quite outstanding. I guess he will get a lot of praise and he certainly deserves it," said the England boss.
Alli squandered a chance in the 19th minute but England skipper Rooney also sang his praises afterwards.
Rooney, who scored a record-extending 51st goal for England with a volley early in the second half to end a move Alli began, said: "It's magical to be 19 and score your first goal for England like that.
"The Spurs boys in the team play with a lot of energy and they are very dangerous on the break. We have seen that when they play for Spurs and we are looking to use that for England.
"We were dangerous on the break and although it was a difficult match for everyone, it was good to see that tactic working against the French." - Wire Services.
Martial scare for Man United
Manchester United were hit by another injury scare after Anthony Martial left Wembley on crutches following France's 2-0 defeat by England yesterday morning (Singapore time).
United midfielder Michael Carrick was carried off on a stretcher during England's 2-0 loss to Spain last week with an ankle injury and, yesterday morning, they suffered another blow when Martial injured his left foot.
Both are doubtful for the Red Devils' trip to Watford on Saturday.
Martial, who has scored five goals for United this season, was replaced by Antoine Griezmann in the 67th minute of the defeat by England in London because of the injury.
The £36-million ($77.8m) forward was seen limping through the player interview area on crutches following the match, with his left foot heavily bandaged.
"He's in quite a bit of pain after the match as a result of a play inside the area," France coach Didier Deschamps said of the 19-year-old. "It's a knock to the top of his foot." - PA Sport.