Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Unity Is the Key Word in a Victory for Everyone; England ......................2 France ...................... 0

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Unity Is the Key Word in a Victory for Everyone; England ......................2 France ...................... 0

Article excerpt

FOR a few fleeting moments, when Dele Alli wheeled away in triumph after scoring a delicious debut goal in the 39th minute at Wembley, one might have been forgiven for assuming normal service had resumed.

The home fans rose with a boisterous roar as the Tottenham youngster strode towards the byline, both arms aloft. His team-mates seemed only too happy to join him in marking his momentous strike.

By the same token, when Wayne Rooney lashed a second shortly into the second half to set up England's 2-0 victory, the genuine thrill was palpable. A handful more kisses to the heavens, perhaps, but otherwise very much as you would expect.

But tear your eyes from the action and it was not hard to find the poignant reminders that it was an extraordinary night, one forged from unspeakable tragedy, and that the mere fact the game was being played at all was the real triumph.

The Wembley arch gleaming the colours of the French Tricolore; the three floral wreaths laid by Prince William and coaches Roy Hodgson and Didier Deschamps, which remained on the edge of the technical areas.

Trite as it might sound, this truly was a night of liberty, fraternity and equality: a night on which, as evidenced amid the three-coloured placards magnanimously held aloft by the home fans before kick-off, the half-and-half scarf sellers have probably never known such demand.

As evidenced again in the 59th minute when Lassana Diarra, whose cousin Asta Diakite was killed in the terrorist attacks, came on as a substitute to a standing ovation.

As evidenced in the fact that in this famous stadium, both in its gleaming new guise and that of its crumbling old predecessor, the emotions can surely never have felt stirred quite so much as in the moment the Coldstream Guards and supporters from both sides of the Channel began to belt out the pre-match La Marseillaise.

Not one of the the squad members rejected the opportunity to feature at Wembley - not even Diarra nor Antoine Griezmann, whose sister survived the shooting at the Bataclan - when canvassed by Deschamps.

"We fully respect the decision of the French Football Federation to be here tonight," read an additional excerpt to the match programme, "and hopefully the occasion will show that the football world is united against these atrocities. …

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