Plenty Of Positives To Be Taken From England’s Draw With France

Looks like my doom and gloom about the Euro 2012 campaign was based almost entirely on my dental requirements. Yesterday we saw a different type of England performance: more conservative and defensively minded than we’ve seen for a while, but apart from Samir Nasri’s goal, the French threat was dealt with effectively.

Anyway, enough from me. Richard Smith takes a look at last night’s game and gives his ratings. Next up: Sweden on Friday.

Roy Hodgson and his England team can come away from their opening game at Euro 2012 against France pleased with themselves having earned a very creditable draw. France looked like a good all round team and one which will pose problems for any side in the tournament.

If France do have a weakness, it is in the central defensive partnership of Adil Rami and Philippe Mexes, which was exploited, firstly when James Milner ran on to a superb through ball into the box from Ashley Young but fluffed his lines by putting the ball into the side netting after rounding the keeper. Not long afterwards Joleon Lescott made amends for Milner’s miss after he rose highest to head England into a 1-0 lead from a well flighted Steven Gerrard free kick. It was exactly the start England had been looking for but it was also a goal that prompted the French into a more positive and direct mood.

France began to exert themselves after going behind, putting England under plenty of pressure with a number of clever runs from the often irksome, Frank Ribery, Samir Nasri and Karim Benzema. However, England fought them off manfully with Gerrard and Scott Parker becoming increasingly busy in front of their own back four. They had Joe hart’s reflexes to thank for keeping the score at 1-0 after Diarra’s header from a free kick looked a certain goal. There was little that anyone could do however about Nasri’s goal that levelled the match after 39 minutes. His shot was a quick-fire accurately struck effort that found the bottom right hand corner of Joe Hart’s net and although disappointing for the England defenders, it was the reward for France’s positive attitude shown after going a goal behind.

In an overall sense, the second half belonged to France although England still created a number of counter attacks that showed promise. French efforts came in from Benzema who looked a class act up front; Ribery continued his trickery from both flanks and as is his trait, continued to fall over spectacularly every time he was fairly tackled. Cabaye was a constant thorn in the midfield and although Nasri tired, he still produced some of the best individual football seen on the night.

For England, there was no one that could be described as the outstanding man of the match, but there was no-one who played poorly. The entire team put in a good solid shift and they were well led by Gerrard. Scott Parker as is his hallmark put his body on the line, charging down at least two shots that were otherwise goal bound, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain justified his selection with a couple of lively touches when going forwards and he showed plenty of maturity when it came to defending. His naiveté at this level did cost him a booking however but apart from that, England fans should be pleased with his contribution.

Overall, England probably surprised a few people with their performance and it was one which certainly offers encouragement ahead of the remaining two group games and hopefully beyond! The odds about England winning Euro 2012 were cut from 14/1 to 12/1 on the back of the this result and Hodgson’s men are 4/7 to make the Quarter Finals and are 2/1 chance to win the group.

England Player Ratings

Joe Hart – 7: A couple of good saves but handling a little unsure at times.

Glen Johnson – 7: A good all round game who joined the attack whenever match prudence allowed.

John Terry – 7: Made a couple of significant tackles on Benzema and cleared his lines well when necessary.

Joleon Lescott – 8: Formed a solid partnership with Terry but gets an extra point for scoring England’s goal.

Ashley Cole – 8: Played to his usual high standard and always offering his support to the attack. Combined well with Oxlade-Chamberlain, both in defence and attack.

James Milner – 7: Not always able to make the crosses that Hodgson had hoped for, but played with a great industry and was always reliable when needing to defend.

Steven Gerrard – 7: Led by example, but finding himself defending more than he was attacking. He and Parker formed what must have appeared to be a brick wall at times in the deep midfield, which regularly succeeded in breaking up French play.

Scott Parker – 7: Put in a typical performance, full of effort, unflinching tackles and great desire to succeed.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 7: A very encouraging start to the tournament who fully justified his selection. He dazzled in one movement in the first half which saw him skilfully go past two French defenders in the blink of an eye.

Ashley Young – 7: Not always the most prominent but Young showed that he was up to the task of filling Wayne Rooney’s boots. He combined well with Danny Welbeck and although never really getting close to scoring, he showed enough deftness to fill the same role against Sweden later this week.

Danny Welbeck – 7: A very encouraging display which should be enough to give him the nod over Andy Carroll for the next match. He put in plenty of endeavour although the threat that he posed in the first half an hour slowly diminished as the game developed.

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