Monday evening saw the meeting of fierce rivals France and England, which many expected to be an encapsulating and mouth-watering affair. There was a fantastic atmosphere coming from the 42,000 fans inside the Donbass Arena in Donetsk as the two sets of players emerged from the tunnel.
England enjoyed an early spell of possession inside the opening few minutes but a few misplaced and over hit passes gave the French confidence and allowed them to gain a foothold in the game. Cabaye and co. had much of the ball, but apart from Samir Nasri’s long range shot which flew narrowly wide of Hart’s right hand post, neither team had any real chances to note. That was until the 14th minute when Ashley Young found space in between Les Bleus’ midfield and defence before picking out Milner with an exquisitely weighted, defence splitting through ball, allowing the Manchester City man to round ‘keeper Lloris before hitting the side netting from a tight angle. One can only think it would have been a different outcome if it were on his stronger foot. The game was rather quiet from then, French sought after full back Debuchy making a couple of promising runs, but nothing to threaten England’s defence. It was half an hour into the game when the deadlock was broken; it came via a Steven Gerrard freekick wide on the right hand side which travelled some distance before meeting Joleon Lescott’s forehead and landing in the back of the net. England gained the upper hand and this reflected in the fans, who were in fine voice. Despite this, England could only hold on for nine minutes, Nasri was allowed space and capitalised on this by unleashing a bullet like shot, beating Joe Hart in his bottom right corner. France had the upper hand for the remainder of the half, they had a few long range shots but again, nothing that really troubled Hart. When Italian referee, Mr Rizzoli blew the half time whistle it was evident that it was a sound Hodgson’s men were relieved to hear. At the half time interval it finished France 1-1 England.
The second half started with the French looking to pick up where they left off but England dealt well with the pressure. Lescott was a major contributing factor to a England good defensive display, winning everything in the air and acting as a solid wall between the French team and Joe Hart’s goal. England had a frustrating second half, the referee was to thank for this as he gave almost every decision, correct or not, to France, despite the English players being victim to seemingly obvious fouls. There wasn’t much action in the second half, it was evident by the lack of offensive play that both teams were happy with a draw. Although France controlled possession for the remainder of the game, England watched as the clocked ticked down and, after the three added minutes were up, the final whistle blew and it finished France 1-1 England. This was a result both teams seemed reasonably happy with although, but the English more than the French. These two teams are seen as the Group D heavyweights and are still favourites to occupy the two qualification sport ahead of Sweden and co-hosts Ukraine. Next, the French play Ukraine and England play Sweden. After these games we will have a better idea of how the group will shape up. It is looking to be a very interesting Euro 2012 tournament, with no real stand out performer so far.
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