England pass French test
France - England’s big test of the group. This was a worrying game for English fans everywhere. France were unbeaten in 22 games, their players were all coming from the best teams in Europe. The task was quite daunting. But England managed to pull their way through.
Under Roy Hodgson’s new leadership, England have looked solid so far, and getting a 1-1 draw with one of the biggest threats in this tournament is no easy feat, but England did it. It might not have been impressive, it might not have been astounding, but they worked hard and got the job done.
What I took from this game was that both teams have the very real possibility of going far in the Euros. Both in very different ways, but they could do it. Let’s start with France. France pretty much dominated England in all areas of the pitch. They held the possession well, created many chances, and generally looked very dangerous in attack. From long range, they seemed to have a bit about themselves, with Cabaye testing Hart from long range, and of course, Samir Nasri putting it past Hart into the bottom corner. Also, with their wingers, they looked like they could really do damage against a lesser team, with Ribery, Malouda and Ben Arfa (when he came on) looking threatening with their dribbling and silky skills. And of course, Benzema can take a chance at the click of his fingers, and could have curled one in towards the end of the match, just like I’ve seen him do at Real Madrid several times over the past couple of years.
But while they look great going forward, they need to defend a lot better. The England goal scored by Joleon Lescott would not have happened if the French had all done their jobs right. Lack of marking allowed Lescott to wander into the six yard box and head it beyond Lloris, who, for a goalkeeper of his calibre, really should have been all over that cross. With the addition of Yann M’Vila to their team, adding a stronger defensive midfielder, I think their weakest area will improve. So it could go either way for France, but I expect them to at least get out of this group, along with another team.
…And that team is England! Another workman like performance, but they didn’t make too many mistakes; then again, they didn’t make too many chances either, with just one shot on target in this match. But what did they do with that one shot? That’s right, they scored. If they can be as lethal as that in their next two games, they should have no problem getting through this group. But, while there are good points, they are outweighed by the negatives. Without Rooney, there was a serious lack of goalscoring threat – after all, our goal was scored by a defender. Also, we got sucked in way too deep at times, and when the ball was cleared, Welbeck seemed to be all on his own, with maybe Ashley Young for company, but that was it. And playing in that style, it will be hard to carve out any real chances against any teams after the group stage. When France scored, it was once again a case of us going too defensive, and when the chance fell to Nasri, no-one was anywhere near him. So I think that needs to be improved upon, but then on the other hand, their defensive display could have just been playing safe against the most difficult opposition in the group. It could have so easily been three points though, had Milner tucked away his shot early on in the first half, rather than an anticlimactic disappointment.
All in all, not the worst game I’ve seen England play, and both should go through the group with relative ease after what I saw in Donetsk.