France 1-1 England
By Dean Farley
Thursday 14 Jun 2012 11:22:00
Browse all Dean Farley articles

England got their European campaign underway with a well deserved draw with France on Monday afternoon. Roy Hodgson's side remain unbeaten under the new boss, proving that they are a tough team to beat.
    Briefly, there was the sense of a team who could give Euro 2012 a jolt. Steven Gerrard had just delivered a cross of such expertise it would have been impudent for Joleon Lescott not to apply the finishing touch. France's 21-match unbeaten sequence was suddenly looking vulnerable and England were at least tempting us to believe they had the wit and gumption to end their record of never having won their opening game of this tournament.
    It was not a thrilling game to watch, however this is far from the most exciting England and France sides that the worl have seen over the years. 
    The brows of Parker and Steven Gerrard were soon glistening with sweat, reflecting the humidity in the air and the threat on the ground of France’s ball-users. The pair did well, although were often dropping back almost on the toes of Terry and Lescott at times. The ball was squandered too frequently, a familiar flaw with England and one that may eventually lead to cracks in Hodgson’s new building.     He gambled with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who started on the left instead of Stewart Downing, but it was a gamble worth taking. There is a muscular, pacy fearlessness to the Arsenal teenager, who darted wonderfully past Alou Diarra and Yohan Cabaye at one point. 
    Oxlade-Chamberlain also worked back assiduously to assist Ashley Cole in extinguishing the fires lit by Nasri and Debuchy. On the other flank, James Milner was tracking back to help Glen Johnson deal with Ribéry. 
    Concerns over the pitch saw the very average Italian referee, Nicola Rizzoli, consulting the fourth official, Pavel Kralovec, before kick-off and Oxlade-Chamberlain and Parker losing their footing in the first minute. The half saw the best and worst of England, of some lightning counters and then old woes in possession, giving the ball away, and defending so deep they were almost in the Crimea. France settled swiftly, Ribéry ghosting past Parker, coaxing more perspiration on to English brows. 

    Chances had been few and far between up to the point when James Milner missed an open goal. After getting the ball played through to him, Milner took the ball around the keeper, however, Milner could only slide the ball into the side netting.
    It was defender Jolean Lescott that opened the scoring for England. England received a free kick on the right wing, that was whipped in by Gerrard and headed in neatly by Lescott. Gerrard's delivery was so exquisite that Lescott had to do little more than get his header on target but it was difficult to think of another moment when England put in a decent cross and had players in the penalty area. 

    Unfortunately, England's lead only lasted a total of nine minutes. The disappointing part for Hodgson was the different response of the teams to the opening goal. It was robust from France, poor from England. Within five minutes Diarra had two headed opportunities, the first saved by Hart and the second turned wide while England struggled to clear. Then Patrice Evra and Franck Ribéry combined to give Nasri a sight of goal and his clever shot beat Hart, dipping into the bottom corner. 

    It was unusual to see England's goalkeeper beaten at his near post but the credit should go to Nasri, who talked afterwards of deliberately deceiving his  Manchester City team-mate. Hart, he said, would have been ready for a shot to the other side. Nasri has a habit of "opening up" and aiming across the goal. Instead, Nasri showed his intelligence by going for the opposite corner, even if he did spoil the moment a little by celebrating provocatively with a shushing gesture, which he said was directed at the media not the England bench.
    England will certainly benefit from having Wayne Rooney, but they will have to wait until after Friday when they play Sweden in Kiev.

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