England frustrated by technically superior French
Wilting in the heat and technically inferior to the French,
England escaped with a draw from their first European Championship
And France, with the flair and guile England lacked for most of
the match, will be ruing a missed opportunity.
”The side that played the most football was France,” France
coach Laurent Blanc said.
That was borne out in the statistics.
While the French completed 634 passes, their opponents managed
just 307 while having less than 40 percent of possession in what
was largely a containment exercise by Roy Hodgson’s side.
France defender Patrice Evra compared England’s defensive
tactics with Chelsea’s in the Champions League last season. But
they succeeded for the London club, which dispatched Barcelona and
then overcame Bayern Munich to lift the European Cup last
”We are frustrated,” France defender Patrice Evra said. ”I
think we played much better. In the end it was a draw and we are a
little bit frustrated. At times it was like there were 15 bodies on
the field at times.
”It was really difficult for us to find the space. They played
in the way that Chelsea played against Barcelona. People laugh.
Maybe they want England to play more football but if they win the
tournament like that, they will be happy.”
England was left relying on the brute force of central
midfielders Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker to block the French
attacks, with the solidity of the back-four and goalkeeper Joe Hart
providing the shield to neutralize Karim Benzema.
”You can question the team all you want, but you’ll always get
belief, pride and quality,” goalkeeper Joe Hart said. ”People
forget that we’re England and we’re a good side. In that first 25
minutes they weren’t ready for us.”
While French players looked comfortable with the ball, England
players’ first touch was often heavy, taking the ball that crucial
distance away when it should appear glued to the foot of top
players. The inexperienced attack were too easily dispossessed or
saw their passes go astray.
England players celebrated the teamwork.
”It was a really good collective performance,” England
defender Joleon Lescott said. ”It was a really hard game to start
off with. We had to be organized and … our work ethic was
There was a buzz early in the match, inspired by teenage winger
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on just his second England start, although
his influence became more limited.
”He’s still got a lot of learning to do,” Gerrard said. ”But
playing with experienced players he’ll pick that up.”
England did expose the French defensive frailties on the
half-hour when center back Lescott headed England in front from
Gerrard’s free kick. But nine minutes later, Hart was beaten at his
near post when Samir Nasri completed a flowing French move.
It was just the kind of fluid surge and one-touch football that
England couldn’t reproduce.
But while France is now on a 22-match unbeaten run, Monday’s
draw was only England’s third consecutive unbeaten match – all
under Hodgson in the last month.
But the new coach hopes England has now established itself as a
side hard to beat as he prepares for Sweden and co-host Ukraine in
the rest of the group stage.
”You don’t become a really good team in three matches and 10
training sessions,” the former Inter Milan and Liverpool manager
said. ”The French have gone 22 games unbeaten and they’ve not done
that overnight. It’s been a long process, people playing together
and getting to know each other’s games. The longer we play
together, the better we’ll become too.”
Rob Harris can be reached at http://twitter.com/RobHarris