France and England played out a cagey affair in their Group D opener in Donetsk, with the English generally frustrating their French opponents.
Laurent Blanc’s side went into this encounter unbeaten in their last 21 games, whilst it was only Roy Hodgson’s third game in charge of the Three Lions, after taking over from Fabio Capello recently. Italy’s Nicola Rizzoli was the match official.
Both teams had a full roster to choose from, with Arsenal youngster Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain standing out as the surprise selection choice for the English.
France had most of the early possession against a defensive English outfit, but were restricted to long-range efforts and set-plays for their earliest chances, whilst England looked most threatening on the counter-attack.
It was England that had the first clear-cut chance of the game when Ashley Young found James Milner with a clever through-ball, but after rounding the goalkeeper, the Manchester City midfielder pulled his finish wide.
After that, Hodgson’s side came into the game over the next 10 minutes of play and eventually took the lead from a set-piece, when a Steven Gerrard free-kick from the right found Joleon Lescott between the posts to powerfully head past a helpless Hugo Lloris.
Similar circumstances saw France almost pull leve inside five minutes, with Alou Diarra forcing a strong save from Joe Hart with a header from Samir Nasri’s free-kick, before the Marseille man then glanced a follow-up header just wide of the right-hand post.
The next chance fell to Nasri, who from 25 yards managed to equalise Les Bleus, when his low, right-footed effort caught his club colleague Hart out at his near right-hand post.
France began the second half as they started and ended the first, by taking most of the possession in an attempt to break down a deep English back-line.
It was beyond the hour mark before either goalkeeper was brought into action, though, with Karim Benzema testing Hart with a 30-yard effort in the middle of his goal.
Soon after that, Glen Johnson cut inside from the right for England to try his luck from a similar distance, but the eventual shot carried high over the bar.
Franck Ribery tried to catch Hart out at his near post from a tight angle with 15 minutes remaining, with the ‘keeper reacting sharply to stop the Bayern man’s low effort sneaking in.
Yohan Cabaye then saw a 30-yard half-volley glanced just wide of Hart’s far post when it took a deflection off a defender as France pressed forward from a corner.
France spent most of the second period with the ball and pressing for an opening, with England only briefly threatening on the counter-attack, otherwise wasteful and lacking numbers near France’s goal.
However, a well-put-together passing move by the English forced a late intervention by Philippe Mexes in front of his own goal to prevent a dangerous low Milner cross from causing any trouble.
The game ultimately ended with little offered from either side in front of goal.
France 1-1 England
Scorers: Lescott 30 (E), Nasri 39 (F)
France: Lloris; Debuchy, Rami, Mexes, Evra; Nasri, Cabaye (Ben Arfa 84), Diarra, Malouda (Martin 84), Ribery; Benzema
England: Hart; Johnson, Terry, Lescott, Cole; Milner, Gerrard, Parker (Henderson 78), Oxlade-Chamberlain (Defoe 77); Young; Welbeck (Walcott 89)
Ref: Nicola Rizzoli (Italy)
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