Dominant France fail to break down resilient English defence
England are France drew one-all in Monday night’s Euro 2012 match. Both goals came in the first half with Joleon Lescott’s 30th minute header from a Gerrard free kick cancelled out when Samir Nasri’s 39th minute shot from the edge of the area squeezed past Joe Hart.
The two sides lined up as expected; the only slight surprise was that Oxlade Chamberlain started at left wing, becoming the sixth youngest player to play at the European championships.
The game too was played with no real surprises.
England sat deep with two banks of four as France patiently builded up from the back.
France dominated possession but could not manage any clear-cut chances.
Most of their shots came from outside the box, while England was restricted to some rare counter-attacking opportunities.
The game began with England causing trouble through Wellbeck and Young exploiting the French channels.
The best chance of the match surprisingly came to England.
Young found space to turn at the edge of the box, awarding Milner’s diagonal run behind the central defenders.
He got around the keeper, only to scuff his shot wide of the mark.
The English fullbacks preferred to sit back and hold their shape, allowing Samir Nasri and Franck Ribery to lurk in front of the English back four to find space.
These two were key to France, constantly cutting inside of their fullback. This space was immediately taken up by Patrice Evra on the left and Mathieu Debuchy on the right.
This pair bombed on from fullback tirelessly throughout the match and constantly found space in behind the English defence .
Nasri and Ribery swapped sides constantly, causing havoc in front of the England fullbacks Ashley Cole and Glen Johnson.
But the England back four held their line and kept France shooting from a distance.
Lescott was given the task of marking Benzema, who instead of trying to get in behind his marker dropped in the gap between the England defence and midfield.
He provided link-up play with Nasri and Benzema.
The first half ended with France in firm control and England sitting deep, which was the way the tie went until the final whistle.
The second half saw the English fullbacks push forward, trying to force Nasri and Ribery to drop back.
However the deep and narrow lines in which England played made it easy for France to pressure the ball, restricting England to even less touches on the ball.
England under Roy Hodgeson are a direct side, but they do not like to play the long ball.
As such, Ashley Young and Danny Welbeck were forced to pick up the ball inside their own half instead of making runs in behind the France back four, as the pair did so effectively in the first half.
France continued in the same vain but never managed a clear chance on goal.
The game was summed up perfectly by the commentators, who called it “an intriguing, while not enthralling game”.
England’s stubbornness to push out meant the game didn’t quite live up to its potential and it is unlikely either side will be satisfied with their performance.
France, however, will be encouraged by the fluidity in attack and the interchanging of positions between the front three of Ribery, Benzema and Nasri.
The French wing backs are where the team’s main attack is formed.
Thus, they seem vulnerable to the counter if they come up against teams pushing their wingers forward.
If England are to make an impression at the tournament they need to see Gerard step out of his holding role when in possession.
They must also utilise Ashley Cole and Glen Johnson’s attacking potential from fullback.
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