England got their Euro 2012 campaign off to a reasonable start with a creditable 1-1 draw against France in Donetsk.
England manager Roy Hodgson will be happy with the discipline and organisation that his side showed but his team must look to push on from this result and stamp their authority against Sweden on Friday.
One key theme that Hodgson will be concerned about is England's inability to maintain possession. Far too frequently, the England players gave the ball away to the French cheaply and under no real pressure. France had a lot of the ball, but they didn't hurt England a great deal, however, better teams will make England pay for their poor ball retention.
Better possession will ease the burden on captain Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker to chase and hassle the opposition to regain the ball. Parker had to be substituted after 80 minutes and he looked dead on his feet. With no exceptional quality to come off the bench, it's vital that Gerrard and Parker are able to stay fit if England want to push on in the tournament.
It was likely that England's best chance of a goal would come from a set piece and that was the case when Manchester City defender Joleon Lescott headed in a Gerrard free kick in the first half.
But France equalised less than ten minutes later when England failed to close down the French players, allowing Samir Nasri time and space to rifle a shot from outside the box past his Manchester City team mate Joe Hart.
The England players needed to hold a higher line and press the French midfield but they failed to do this and the equaliser was a consequence of England sitting far too deep and allowing the opposition to dominate. With England sitting deep, they had to break quickly from defence into attack but too often the gap between Danny Welbeck, Ashley Young and the midfield was too big, leaving the forward players isolated.
That meant Young failed to make an impression on the game apart from one moment of quality when he threaded a pass through to James Milner who rounded Hugo Lloris but shot wide. England will be hoping Young can have more of an influence against Sweden and link up with club team mate Welbeck.
In the second half, France struggled to break down England's well drilled defence and the game slowly drifted towards a stalemate with both teams appearing happy to settle for a point.
From an attacking point of view, England didn't cause France too many problems. But they will be satisfied with their performance and more hopeful of making progress, especially once Wayne Rooney returns from suspension in the final game against Ukraine.
The inclusion of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was a surprising but bold move by Hodgson and it worked. One excellent bit of skill to beat two French players will be remembered for a while and he always looked a threat with the ball at his feet, although his decision making let him down at times. He showed a great deal of maturity and the experience he gained will be valuable in years to come.
For all of France's attacking flair in Karim Benzema, Franck Ribery and goal scorer Nasri, they will be disappointed that they couldn't hurt England more as they created few clear cut chances and were restricted to long range shots which Hart dealt with well. France will argue that they controlled the match but England were never over run in midfield, which was the fear, or under significant spells of pressure.
The game was probably the most tactical game of the tournament so far with both sides set up with a 'must not lose' attitude; however that mentality will have to change in their next game. It's arguable whether Hodgson will opt for a more aggressive and attacking approach in their next two games but with the toughest game of the group out of the way, England can look forward with genuine optimism.
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