SPORTS

France, England settle for draw in Euro opener

06/11/2012 03:46 EDT | Updated 08/11/2012 05:12 EDT

Group D favourites England and France settled for a 1-1 draw at the European Championship on Monday in Donetsk, Ukraine.

Joleon Lescott opened the score for the English team, while Samir Nasri scored the equalizer for France, which controlled the ball for most of the game but wasn't able to capitalize.

Main storyline

The French team, led by midfielder Samir Nasri, had control of the game. The Manchester City player constantly threatened England’s defence and was the most dangerous player during the 90-plus minutes.

Nasri took the role of creator and his performance was outstanding. This is not Manchester City’s secondary player, but a playmaker able to lead a speedy line of attack, and that’s great news for France.

Nasri, Franck Ribery, Yohan Cabaye and Karim Benzema camped right outside England’s area and controlled the game with good passing and ball possession, forcing England to play a counter-attack game.

However, the counter-attack system worked fine for the Englishmen, who took advantage of France’s offensive mentality and capitalized on it.

After several attempts with long passes, including a play in minute 15 by James Milner that almost resulted in a goal, England opened the score, surprising its rival and most of the viewers.

In minute 30, Joleon Lescott gave his team the lead with a header that beat French keeper Hugo Lloris and proved, yet again, soccer can be a little unfair.

French defenceman Patrice Evra committed a foul on Milner and English captain Steven Gerrard took advantage of it, doing what he does best.

The French squad did not change its system after the goal and continued to overwhelm England with an aggressive game that tested English goalie Joe Hart more than he would have wanted.

Hart saved his team again in minute 35, stopping a point-blank header by Diarra that began with a free kick.

But it wasn’t over for Hart, because four minutes later justice was done.

Nasri fired a bullet from the edge of the area that cruised past the English goalie and reached its target: the back of the net.

And, after being (unfairly) down for most of the first half, France evened the scoreboard thanks to the best player on the field.

The French control moved on to the second half, with an impressive game in the middle of the field. Nasri, Ribery and Cabaye continued their ball domination on the English side.

It must be frustrating to have three or four players bully your team, and you could see that frustration on faces of the English players, who salvaged an important draw but need to regroup ahead of their following games in Group D.

The game’s pace slowed down as the minutes flew by and, despite France's constant efforts, the game ended with a draw.

What this result means

- Disappointing result for France, which could not capitalize on a weaker opponent and a wake-up call for England, which could see its second round hopes vanish if the team don’t make aggressive changes in their game plans. A tie between the two favourites can only be good news for Sweden and Ukraine.

Man of the match

- Samir Nasri dominated the game from start to finish, scored the tying goal for France and his creative plays were the spark of an incredible attacking line that owned the ball and did not allow England to take a break.

The French perspective

- "I think we have to be happy with that, we were too timid at the start, there was a bit of pressure that got to us, and then we got better actually after we conceded the goal — that's when we started playing." — Coach Laurent Blanc

The English perspective

- "We'll look at our performance and analyze what we've done right and what we've done wrong, I think all in all we're satisfied with a point." — Captain Steven Gerrard

MORE:cbcSports