What Papers Say On England 1 France 1

'The epitome of dogged determination.' We were half-cringing when we opened the papers to put this review together, but everyone seems quite happy with England...

Last Updated: 12/06/12 at 08:19 Post Comment

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'England were the epitome of dogged determination in the stifling heat of Donetsk. Outfoxed by France for key periods of this match - possession ran at 65 per cent to Laurent Blanc's men, who made 654 passes to England's 345 and had 15 shots on target (including those blocked) to England's one - Hodgson's team were never less than resilient. They came away with a point that represents a more-than-creditable start to the campaign.

'So talk of dourness is not intended as complaint. If England did not do enough to win, they defended well enough to draw, which is better than many predicted. The back four of Glen Johnson, John Terry, Joleon Lescott and Ashley Cole were outstanding against a forward line touted as one of the best in Europe.

'Scott Parker and Steven Gerrard worked like stink to stop France getting at them. James Milner covered more ground than any other player on the field, while Danny Welbeck made sure attack was the first line of defence. In other words, England were fiendishly hard to beat. If anything, the really hard work starts now because this was a Hodgson team on familiar territory.

'Next up are Sweden in Kiev, a game that England need to win. The complication is obvious. This is a team better suited to repelling than marauding. Their great strength is at the back. There must be greater ambition on Friday but will England go for it?' - Martin Samuel in The Daily Mail.

'A draw still represents a reasonably satisfying evening's work when the opposition have not lost a match since September 2010 and Hodgson was entitled to be pleased by all the usual English qualities of application and structure.

'Nobody should be too surprised either that this team are still, very evidently, a work in progress when their preparations were so erratic. Hodgson has had only three games and, in those circumstances, there were encouraging signs of a team taking shape. All the same, England were too rigid, lacking fluidity in this functional 4-4-2 system.

'France passed the ball more than twice the number of times of their opponents - 634 to 307. Just as tellingly, there were only 136 English passes in the second half, when there were conspicuous signs of a team fading' - Daniel Taylor in The Guardian.

'England will need to be more than resilient if they are to turn initial promise into something more, but for now let us accentuate the positives.

'It is less than three weeks since they first assembled under Roy Hodgson's eye in Manchester. In that time, in which four members of his original 23-man squad have been lost to injury, the new manager has applied a sense of purpose and tactical discipline to a team that has all too rarely shown either quality down the years.

'Put simply, England played like a team. Not a brilliant team, not like a leading contender to emerge from this tournament as champions of Europe for the first time, but as a collective enterprise.

'They mustered only one shot on target to their opponents' 15, but on that solitary occasion Hugo Lloris was beaten by Joleon Lescott's header, from Steven Gerrard's free kick on the half-hour, and thereafter they focused on defending what they had, even when Samir Nasri equalised nine minutes later' - Oliver Kay in The Times.

'At times, this was a night that threatened to be English Roundheads versus French musketeers, of Scott Parker erecting the barricades in midfield to keep the elegant mistrals of France at bay. Blanc's side were more technical, more assertive through the likes of Samir Nasri, Franck Ribéry and the terrific Mathieu Debuchy, comfortably the man of the match. Nasri, who struck a fine equaliser, won the brewer's booty but he was small beer compared to Debuchy, the Lille full-back who kept storming down the right.

'Sound contributions were seen all over the pitch for England. John Terry, making light of moving to the right of the two centre-halves, made some important interceptions. Lescott headed England in front and defended with his usual diligence.

'The brows of Parker and Steven Gerrard were soon glistening with sweat, reflecting the humidity in the air and the threat on the ground of France's ball-users. The pair did well, although were often dropping back almost on the toes of Terry and Lescott at times. The ball was squandered too frequently, a familiar flaw with England and one that may eventually lead to cracks in Hodgson's new building' - Henry Winter in The Daily Telegraph.

'It doesn't make your blood race. It doesn't persuade you to reach for a flag. But last night it stopped France as they threatened to produce not only beautiful but also killing football. Above everything else, it was a performance of dogged belief and a clear understanding of what they could achieve.

'To understand the nature of their achievement you had to wake up to the blazing sun and the sense of a heavy challenge.

'It baked all day in eastern Ukraine, at 90F a good 30F higher than back in England's training headquarters in Poland, before they made the 800-mile flight here. So, of course, the French waited with the encouraging sense they were not only more skilled and more confident but also infinitely better acclimatised.

'Nor did the fact they were undefeated in their last 21 games, including one against England at Wembley completed with quite a lot to spare, diminish the possibility that if the French had anything to worry about come game-time it was not a whole lot more than a serious attack of smugness' - James Lawton in The Independent.

'When Oxlade-Chamberlain walked onto the pitch at the Donbass Arena, it made him the least experienced England player to start a tournament for 20 years. It was only the Arsenal winger's third cap. Not since Keith Curle played at Euro 1992 has an England player been more raw on a big stage. Sure, Oxlade-Chamberlain slotted into Hodgson's straight line 4-4-2 formation, ousting Stewart Downing on the left of midfield. But even though his inclusion did not radically alter England's style, it did give it a maverick element.

'His selection was a symbol of the fact that Hodgson will not be scared to break free. It was a powerful statement by the England boss, the statement of a man who will not be afraid to gamble. It was a bold choice. It moved England up a gear. It moved them from safety-first to a side eager to keep the opposition guessing. And it contributed to the fact that England started this tournament where so little is expected of them on a high' - Oliver Holt in The Daily Mirror.

'If Fabio Capello had been in charge, some of his media supporters would have been hailing it as a tactical triumph against a France team now unbeaten in 22 matches. Sure, we'll never win Euro 2012 performing like this.

'Hodgson's team were comprehensively outplayed at times, the match stats revealing 15 French attempts on target and just one from England. France also won the possession battle 60-40.

'But it was still a patched-up, ragtag and bobtail army that Hodgson had to send out to ensure he didn't get off to the worst possible start in his first competitive match as England boss' - Steven Howard in The Sun.

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