I had high hopes for this meeting between these two European powerhouses. Unfortunately, the exciting moments were few and far between and I found myself close to asleep near the end. If this is how England intends on playing their competitive opponents, it’s a disappointment. I’m sure there are plenty of English fans thrilled with a point and only Sweden and Ukraine remaining, but with the amount of talent in England it’s unacceptable.
The first half was dominated by France, but England found a few week spots in the French defense (Milner had a golden opportunity which he should have put away) and England were able to convert a spot kick against the run of play. Nasri, Benzema, and Ribery were creating some issues for a well-organized backline protected by Gerrard and Parker. Nasri evened up the score not too long after England’s goal with a well-driven ball just outside the area. France continued to press England for the remainder of the first half but could not find a way past the buses England had parked in front of Joe Hart.
The second half was a little more back and forth ; England even managed to string three passes together. But the half was played at a much more reserved pace and both sides were content with a tie for the last 20 minutes or so.
French Outlook: Clearly offensively potent, they looked like Barcelona trying to break down Chelsea in the Champions League semi, but I don’t think they have the requisite skill to try to walk it in. With an aerial threat like Benzema, France would do well to mix it up a little. I don’t recall Benzema’s head getting on the end of many, if any, crosses today. The downfall of France will be their backline. While certainly apt to get forward, the outside backs were less than outstanding defensively. Evra was downright lazy at times; the chance Milner was unable to finish in the first half was courtesy of Evra tracking with Milner only to a point, at which Evra slowed and half-heartedly attempted to pull Milner offsides. England was able to cause problems with only a few men going forward; once France meet a more balanced opponent (Spain, Germany, Netherlands, etc.) it will be hectic back there.
England Outlook: Bright spots were few today. What England should take away from this one is they didn’t play well, were outshot 19-3, and still tied a strong French side. I thought Welbeck and Oxlade-Chamberlain did very well given the lack of support and their relative inexperience in major competitions. Young was another aggressor for England and it will be fun to see these guys continue to build on that relationship. Gerrard and Parker were attached to the back four and their contributions were in the form of strong tackles rather than any playmaking. I am optimistic that this was simply a warm-up for an English team with plenty of issues (injuries) to deal with leading into the Euros and the intensity and attacking aspect of this team will ramp up leading into the next stage. Despite my disappointment in the performance today, they are still are very strong squad that could go places given the experience and resilience of their backline and goalkeeper. Let’s hope to see them gain some confidence after game one take a few more risks going forward.