England held Laurent Blanc’s "Les Bleus" to a draw in their opening Euro 2012 group match on Monday despite France's stronger performance in the second half. Goals from Joleon Lescott and Samir Nasri meant the game ended in a 1-1 stalemate.
France and England were forced to be content with a share of the spoils after their opening match of Euro 2012 ended in a tight stalemate on Monday.
The eagerly awaited heavyweight clash in Donetsk ended in a 1-1 draw after England’s opening goal from defender Joleon Lescott was quickly cancelled out by France’s Samir Nasri.
Although a draw suits both teams, France may be the more frustrated of the two after dominating the second half of the match.
But after its debacle in the 2010 World Cup and a poor showing at Euro 2008, France might just be happy to have finally moved on from the past.
The match, played in the sweltering heat at the Donbass Arena, began at a pedestrian pace, with both teams probing for a weakness in their opponents.
England, which controlled much of the first half, should have taken the lead after just 14 minutes when James Milner raced through France’s defence. He rounded France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris but could not squeeze the ball into the net from a tight angle.
The game finally burst into life on the half-hour mark, when a Steven Gerrard free kick was headed in by Lescott to give England a precious advantage.
Unfortunately for the Three Lions, their lead was only to last eight minutes, as a superb strike from France’s Nasri pulled his team level.
France’s confidence grew from then on and the team dominated in the second half.
Newcastle midfielder Yohan Cabaye almost gave them the lead but his strike was deflected inches off target by England striker Danny Welbeck.
Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema tested England goalkeeper Joe Hart from a distance, but despite France’s dominance, clear-cut chances were proving hard to come by.
France plugged away with some neat passing and good movement, but England remained organised and both teams seemed happy with a point.
French fans left frustrated
France’s supporters, on the other hand, were less so. Many lamented the failure of their team to break down a stubborn and defensive England.
Some of the dozens who had descended on The Bombardier, an English pub in Paris, to watch the match were disappointed not to have taken three points.
“We deserved to win,” Christophe le Saint told FRANCE 24. “England only came to get a draw. We were looking for the victory more than the English.”
“We wanted to beat the English because, after us, they are the second-best team in the group,” added Lucas Germain, who also came to the pub to watch the game.
“It’s frustrating because England were so defensive. They played like Greece did in 2004,” said Raphael Lettreuille, another French supporter.
“I feel sorry for the English because they are not going to win anything playing like that,” he added.
Like many British pubs across Paris, The Bombardier was packed to the rafters as fans of both teams suspended the entente cordiale for the 90 minutes of the match.
As the game went on, the atmosphere in the crowd heated up. Cries of “Come on, England!” were quickly met with the riposte, “Allez, Les Bleus!”
“There was a real battle between the supporters – but the French, as always, made more noise,” said Fabien Duffes of Paris.
Hugo Malim, a Three Lions supporter, reflected on the more upbeat mood among the English fans.
“I don’t think we deserved to win, but I don’t think France did either,” he said. “I was expecting more from the French, especially from Karim Benzema, so it’s no surprise they are disappointed.”
“I’m happy with the draw,” he continued. “I was so nervous before the match, but thankfully I have the day off tomorrow to recover from the stress.”
France will return to the Donbass Arena on Friday to meet hosts Ukraine; England will head to Kiev, where it will take on Sweden the same day.