England start Euro 2012 with draw against France

 

England battled their way to a Euro 2012 draw with France in Donetsk.

Joleon Lescott had put them in front after half an hour.

They could only hold the lead for nine minutes though as Samir Nasri struck from the edge of the area and England never really looked like restoring their advantage, instead relying on the obdurate defensive traits that have been so evident in Roy Hodgson's previous two friendlies in charge.

As France are expected to advance from Group D, the new manager could be pretty pleased with the outcome on a sweltering night.

Click here to view full player ratings for the France-England match

There are obvious deficiencies though and it is going to take far longer than the six weeks Hodgson has had to prepare for this competition to drill home the importance of keeping hold of the ball.

So much has changed in the two years since South Africa, yet by half-time there was an uncomfortable sense the fundamentals remained the same.

Five of Hodgson's first competitive starting line-up were on duty for the World Cup opener in Rustenburg, when England blitzed the United States, got their noses in front and then needlessly tossed away the advantage.

Steven Gerrard scored that night. This time he was the provider, curling over a superb free-kick from the touchline, where James Milner had been nudged over by Patrice Evra.

Lescott would not have been playing if Gary Cahill's tournament had not been ended by a broken jaw before it had begun.

The Manchester City man is a threat in these situations though and got away from Alou Diarra at the far post to beat goalkeeper Hugo Lloris from point-blank range.

It could quite easily have been doubling the advantage as not long before, Milner had raced onto Ashley Young's through-ball and skipped round Lloris.

On Twitter, Gary Lineker revealed in such situations, you should always aim beyond the far post because in almost every instance, the ball ends up being cut towards the near.

Unfortunately, Milner does not have the striking instinct of the man who scored 48 goals for his country. He did what came naturally, and the ball ended up rolling wide.

These were brief moments in the ascendancy for England though.

Having already recorded the pre-match temperature at 31 degrees, UEFA came up with another startling statistic at half-time, namely France had completed 299 passes to England's 171. By the end it was a staggering 634 to 307.

It was indicative of an old English failing and explained why France dictated most of the game.

Twenty-one games unbeaten, the French response to going behind was swift.

A nervy-looking Joe Hart produced a fine save to deny Diarra, who climbed highest to reach a Nasri free-kick, very similar in execution to Gerrard's earlier.

Franck Ribery cut the rebound back into the danger area but Diarra was unable to locate the target.

On their next attack, France had more success.

An intricate passing move on the edge of the area, starting with Evra, led to Ribery rolling a pass back to Nasri, who gave himself space with the first touch and beat Hart with his second.

The replays did not look good for the England keeper, even if criticism should be tempered by the knowledge Nasri had far too much time to pick his spot.

This depressingly familiar pattern for those who crave a bit of guile and creativity continued after the break, even if England's lack of finesse was matched by their defensive belligerence.

Karim Benzema's ferocious long-range effort was well saved by Hart and from a similar distance, Florent Malouda's shot cannoned into Scott Parker.

The outstanding Yohan Cabaye then came agonisingly close with another well-struck shot that flicked narrowly wide off Danny Welbeck.

By this stage, England had introduced Jermain Defoe in an effort to provide Welbeck with more orthodox support.

Sat behind the dug-out, suspended Wayne Rooney was living every kick, doubtless both him and Hodgson wishing he could do something more meaningful.

Yet it also said something about the respective strengths of the two squads that whilst Hodgson introduced Jordan Henderson because Parker was flagging, Laurent Blanc had Hatem Ben Arfa up his sleeve.

Gerrard stuck his neck out to turn a goalbound effort from Benzema over the bar, before England finally created some excitement of their own as Milner rolled a cross to the near post for Welbeck, which Philippe Mexes stretched out a leg to reach first.

Injury-time brought just one French opportunity, for Benzema, but Hart saved to complete a decent night's work for Hodgson's men, even if solid, rather than spectacular looks to be the way forward.

PA

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower