It was a performance for a time of austerity, devoid of the kind of ambition that will always be hoped for from those of a nation whose psyche, where the national team is concerned, will always be skewed by the act of having given football to the rest of the world. By the end, the English whistles that issued around the stadium, urging the referee to blow his own, acknowledged the truth that this was a game of artists versus artisans. And yet for all that, this is a result to be deeply grateful for.
The artist in the English ranks was in the dug-out, and the target for England has always been to keep hopes alive for the moment that Wayne Rooney is back. For that reason, a draw against France is a very fine result.
In part, there is old-fashioned industry to thank for that. Steven Gerrard, above all others, and Scott Parker played a substantial part in shutting off, in the second half, the lustrous football that had made Laurent Blanc's players seem like an irresistible force in the first. If there was a motif for the game's latter stages then it was James Milner, socks around his ankles, chasing up and down his right flank, sticking to that zonal style of play Roy Hodgson has drilled into him.
They had their share of luck, too, which has not always been theirs in tournament football. And they had John Terry. After his very poor performance against Germany during the World Cup two years ago – playing on his unnatural side then, as last night – this was a very big test and he passed it well.
England created the first clear-cut opportunity when Ashley Young was allowed to fasten on to Parker's pass, advance into space and bisect the centre-backs. Milner, racing on to his pass, took a heavy first touch and when he reached it, the angle allowed him only to find the side netting.
After Patrice Evra's clumsy foul on Milner, Gerrard raked in a free-kick from the right touchline as if the place were Anfield and with the French central defenders mesmerised by Danny Welbeck, Joleon Lescott leapt in to head England into the lead.
However, the lead was erased inside eight minutes when the disciplines that Hodgson has been ingraining in his players finally failed them. Samir Nasri, just inside the left side of the area, found a fraction of space. With Joe Hart perhaps unsighted by Gerrard as he leapt in to block, and Parker patrolling behind him, the ball crept in at the goalkeeper's near post.Reuse content