Euro 2012: France v England – as it happened

A solid if unspectacular start for Roy Hodgson's men, as Samir Nasri cancels out Joleon Lescott's opener

Here come England! Yes, after a three-day wait, here they come! But tenterhooks are so 1996: nobody's expecting very much from them at all. Oh. Gotta love the electric buzz of major international football tournaments, eh.

England go into this event with their lowest expectations ahead of any tournament since Euro 92, perhaps ever. Which is kind of fair enough: they're not a particularly exciting proposition, Fabio Capello having decided the only way ahead for this shower is to park the bus and give out like the Greeks in 2004, a tactic the new man Roy Hodgson is in no way minded to deviate from. Still, no expectation means pressure off, which has in turn led to talk of a serene run to the semis. So... pressure's very much on, lads! Don't let this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of working in a pressure-free environment pass you by!

What a start they've been handed, though. England's overall historical record against France is very good: they've won 16 games to France's eight, with only four matches having ended in a draw. But the competitive record is much more even: it's two wins apiece. France skelped England 5-2 in Alf Ramsey's first-ever match in Euro qualifying in 1963, and scored twice in injury time at Euro 2004 to nick off with a 2-1 win; England meanwhile have done the French twice at the World Cup, 2-0 at Wembley in 1966, 3-1 in Bilbao in 1982.

Worse news for England is the recent form. France have won four of the last five encounters against the English, drawing the other one. And they're currently 21 games unbeaten, since losing 1-0 at home to Belarus in the opening game of their qualifying campaign.

Having said all that: England are undefeated in competitive football since that 4-1 hammering by Germany at the last World Cup. They're also on a two-game undefeated run since being totally outplayed by Holland at Wembley in February. Mr Roy can boast back-to-back 1-0 wins since taking over, and is currently the most successful England manager of all time (if you don't take the winning of actual trophies into consideration, which nobody else seems to bother doing while assessing his managerial abilities, so who am I to rock the boat). He's 100%! He's two in the hole! Move over, Sir Alf!

Kick off: 5pm British "Summer" Time; 7pm EEST, the local time in Donetsk, Ukraine.

France, who are expected to dominate possession: France: Lloris, Debuchy, Rami, Mexes, Evra, Nasri, Cabaye, Diarra, Malouda, Ribery, Benzema.
Subs: Mandanda, Giroud, Matuidi, Reveillere, Menez, M'Vila, Martin, Ben Arfa, Valbuena, Clichy, Koscielny, Carrasso.

England, who will be looking to sit back, soak up the pressure, and attack Evra and Mexes on the break. And maybe do something against a small team from a set piece: Hart, Johnson, Terry, Lescott, Cole, Milner, Gerrard, Parker, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Young, Welbeck.
Subs: Green, Walcott, Henderson, Carroll, Baines, Jones, Jagielka, Downing, Defoe, Butland.

Referee: Nicola Rizzoli (Italy).

English pre-tournament optimism starts here! "Could this be our time?" wonders Andy Underwood. "Nope. [Note: English pre-tournament optimism is over.] Been drinking too many cocktails in the sun. If nothing else England could provide a couple of Irish style belly laughs." And so it begins: according to our man Daniel Taylor on That Twitter, "One casualty for England: goalkeeping coach Ray Clemence being carried off during warm-up." Although some sympathy, please: he's snapped an Achilles tendon, and looks in a world of pain, poor chap.

Mr Roy's rousing pre-match team talk: "If Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain tires, or it doesn't work out for him, we've got other options." That should put a spring in the young lad's step. He also points out that the "England shirt is heavy". Not literally, of course, before some Umbro shill emails in. Speaking of which, here's Ian Copestake: "As the England shirt is too heavy, weighed down with beer-soaked disappointment, could they not market it a hair-shirt?"

The teams walk out! There is some incredibly poor music blasting from the PA. No doubt a new official Uefa Euro anthem. I'm past caring, it's never going to change, though they really need to rip these speaker systems out of every single ground. There's not a notable spike in musical quality when England's Special Song drones out. But then it's the La Marseillaise, which let's face it, knocks our miserable ditty into a cocked chapeau. Haven't watched Casablanca for a while. That's me sorted when I get home. But we're nothing if not interested in journalistic balance, so here's Ryan Dunne: "I have a dilemma. As a fan of the (Scottish) Glorious Glasgow Rangers, would it be hypocritical of one to cheer on France and stand, Pavlov's dog style, for God Save the Queen?"

Five... four... three... two... one... kick-off! Someone needs to have a word with the guy behind the PA mic. England get the ball rolling. Within a minute, Young slides a ball down the right to release Welbeck into space. Welbeck's flagged offside, but he wasn't. "Well, I'm dizzy with excitement and looking forward to our Lions ROARING!" hollers Phil Sawyer. "Mind you, I'm feeling slightly out of it with a sinus infection that's leaving me feeling lightheaded and confused, aided and abetted by the medicinal slug of brandy I've decided to throw at the problem, so my opinion is perhaps not to be trusted."

3 min: This is a bright start by England. Oxlade-Chamberlain skedaddles down the left and into the area. He drops a shoulder this way and that, but can't quite get past Mexes. "My Dutch female friend, not knowing who Roy is, saw him on telly over the weekend and genuinely asked: 'Who's that ugly woman?'," reports Rob Hardy. "And Don Fabio could have been mistaken for Coronation Street's Betty Driver. Is there a trend here?" Not really, unless you're claiming sassy, brassy Steve McClaren had a bit of the Bet Lynches about him.

5 min: France show up front for the first time. Nasri flicks a delicious ball over a static Terry and down the inside-left channel for Benzema. The striker nearly gets a shot away, but has to make do with a corner. Nowt happens from the set piece. "England are the luckiest team in the tournament before they've even kicked a ball," begins Simon McMahon. "Given the other teams in their group a defeat today need not prove fatal. Whereas Holland and the Republic of Ireland, well ... you can tell I'm from Scotland, can't you?"

7 min: Malouda swings a free kick into the English area from the right-hand touchline. Terry eyebrows the ball away at the far post. Ribery, from the left, hacks it back in, the ball twanging off the back of Johnson's boot and fortunately into the arms of Hart. France didn't look dangerous there at all, so England did their job for them. All slightly nervous.

10 min: Cabaye sprays a lovely ball wide left to release Ribery. Johnson sticks with the winger and ushers the ball out for a corner, no mean feat given the danger. From the corner, Hart flaps, the busy Johnson on hand to hack clear. France are beginning to look dangerous.

11 min: Nasri has a whack from just outside the England area. The ball flies wide left of the post, but not by much. England are not quite asking for trouble yet, but they're formulating the question.

13 min: Ribery skates down the right, then scampers around Cole on the outside. He's into the area, but cuts the ball back to Cabaye on the edge of the box. The ball's shuttled along the front of the area to the left, via four players, tiki-taka style. In other words, the move goes nowhere and eventually breaks down.

15 min: What a chance for England! Parker, on the halfway line, slides a ball down the inside-left channel for Young, who further moves the ball along, a perfectly-weighted pass to release Milner. Milner is free of the French back line, and rounds the desperate Lloris on the left-hand side. The goal's gaping, but the angle's tight, and Milner's effort slaps into the side netting. I say tight, but Milner wasn't presented with too much of a poser: he should have scored.

16 min: France go up the other end. Cabaye hits a low shot from distance, a dribbler towards the bottom-right corner. Hart makes a seven-course meal of dealing with it. He looks pretty nervous, the England keeper.

18 min: This is a nice, open game, and England are giving as good as they've been getting. Oxlade-Chamberlain looks to break clear down the left, chasing a clever pass from the lively Young, but is caught offside.

21 min: France ping it around the face of the English box awhile. They never look like breaking through, though. Eventually Milner sticks a boot in, and clears. "England offer an interesting perspective on geometry," notes Damien Neva. "As I see it, their midfield triangles often have only two sides with the third disappearing into the touch."

23 min: Benzema, Nasri and Ribery take turns to shimmy and shake around the England area, pushing the ball to the right, then probing down the left. But England are looking fairly comfortable with this state of affairs at the moment, and eventually a frustrated Nasri swings a hopeless high cross in from the left, and possession is lost. "I am not an expert of German language, but the German commentator mentioned Fernando Torres while describing the miss from Mllner," reports Paolo Rosati. "Weird connection." Sounds about right to me.

26 min: Gerrard picks the ball up centrally, 25 yards from goal, and considers the shot. He should have had the shot, because his eventual decision - a sliderule diagonal pass towards the inside-right channel with a view to releasing Milner - finds his team-mate offside.

28 min: Debuchy diddles down the right, reaching the byline. Cole is tight on him, though a strange low cross-cum-shot squeaks through, and Hart does well to smother by the near post. "Being from Northern Ireland I can understand Ryan Dunne's pre-match conundrum as to whom to support," writes Lucy Hutchinson. "One close up of Laurent Blanc's face confirmed it for me though. The man has a soul patch. That is not acceptable behaviour." I wonder what Mr Roy would look like with a similar jazz beard? My hunch is Lester Corncrake from The Mighty Boosh.

30 min: GOAL!!! France 0-1 England. A free kick for England, 40 yards out, down the right, Evra knocking down Milner like a clumsy galoot. Gerrard takes, but the referee demands a retake. And how England love that decision, because the second effort is sent right onto Lescott's head, eight yards out, level with the left-hand post. Lescott, totally unmarked, plants a header into the top-left corner. Lloris was nowhere to be seen. Terrible defending by the French, but that was a lovely set piece by the English.

33 min: A third 1-0 win in a row for Hodgson, then?

34 min: Oxlade-Chamberlain clatters Debuchy near the right touchline. That's a foul, and a booking; he was pretty late, and very clumsy. And from the resulting free kick...

35 min: ... France so nearly equalise. Nasri swings a ball into the English area. Diarra, eight yards out, hammers a header goalwards, but Hart parries brilliantly. However, Ribery gets to the loose ball, dropping to the right of the goal. He hooks the ball back into the middle, where Diarra again nearly scores, guiding a close-range header towards the unguarded left-hand side of the net, but just too far wide. A decent response to going behind by France. "Would Rio have scored that header, eh?" quips John Steward.

39 min: GOAL!!! France 1-1 England. France pass it around a lot. Eventually the ball's worked to Ribery, his back to goal, on the left-hand edge of the area. He lays the ball back to Nasri, who sidefoots powerfully towards Hart's bottom-left corner - and the keeper doesn't make it there in time! A lovely shot, but Hart will be disappointed at letting one in at his near post (although Gerrard might have been standing in his eyeline).

42 min: Ribery skates down the left and swings a cross in. Terry nuts clear for a corner. France then ping it around awhile. Nasri tries to break into the area from the left. Debuchy bombs down the right but can't find a man with a cross. Cabaye and Benzema attempt a one-two on the edge of the D. England can't get the ball at all.

44 min: Benzema ballet-dances at high speed down the inside-right channel and into the England area past Parker and, so nearly, Cole. His low shot from an incredibly tight angle is smothered by a combination of Cole and Hart. England are beginning to rock quite alarmingly now. "Can one of the French players go all 1992 and stick the heid on England's left back to relieve the boredom?" asks the hard-to-please Niall Mullen. "As it's Ashley Cole this time I doubt anyone will be too bothered."

HALF TIME: France 1-1 England. England will be glad to hear the half-time whistle. France were beginning to turn the screw there; level pegging was the very least they deserved, having bossed Mr Roy's side for the majority of the half. "Alan Curbishley as Gail Tilsley," adds Simon Frank, perhaps confusingly for anyone who can't remember the entry on 3 mins.


A nod, sort of, to France's excellent right-back. And the second-half flood about to engulf England, although Laurent Blanc's side might attempt to play at a slightly higher tempo.

GUARDIAN SPORT DRIVETIME TRAVEL NEWS with Paul Royall: "Traveling home on the 5:00 to Norwich from London Liverpool Street. This is my regular commute. No Wifi or radio to follow the match. However the driver is keeping us informed. The intercom must be shot as he could only announce the first goal by a toot of his horn. He must have stopped off at Halfords as it was a full steam sounding blast with a cheeky pitch change at the end. Pretty impressive for a 40year old 125. The ghost of Jimmy Saville haunts the vestibules." Thanks for that update, Paul. Incidentally, you may or may not be interested in what happened the last time Saville and British Rail was mentioned in a MBM. (Half time here.) He died less than 45 minutes later. (See full time.) So, er, sorry about that.

And we're off again! No changes. Incidentally, Mr Roy came stomping out of the tunnel with a proper face on. He's got the funk alright.

47 min: France pick things up where they left off, pretty much, by passing it around in England's half all the time. A quiet start to the half otherwise, mind. "That moisturiser advert they've just shown in the break says they can remove all irritation. Has someone found a way to shut up Tyldesley and Townsend?" Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together for club comic Phil Sawyer, he's here all week, do please drive home safely, and if you can't be good, be careful.

49 min: Milner slips a backpass down his own left wing towards Hart, nearly letting Nasri in. The keeper does brilliantly to sprint out and claim before the French midfielder can cause any bother. Not ideal from Milner, that. England go up the other end and are gifted a corner down the right off Mexes. Gerrard sends it straight down Lloris' throat. A good 60 seconds or so for the keepers.

51 min: A free kick for England just inside the French half on the left. Gerrard sprays a long diagonal ball towards Johnson down the right; his Liverpool team-mate very nearly breaks into the box. Evra snuffs out the danger. This half hasn't started properly yet. "Regardless of whether people think Joe Hart should have got down faster to his near post to save Nasri's shot, there's no denying that the new England goalkeeper jersey is a distinctively snazzy creation," suggests Thomas Midlane. "It carries echoes of the work of famous Op-art practitioner Bridget Riley: pretty, but may induce ferocious migraines if you stare at it for too long, Magic Eye-style."

53 min: England are currently seeing a bit more of the ball. Quite a lot of pinging around in the middle, but no advances. Have they been watching Spain? Gerrard tries to burst down the inside-left channel near the French area, but he's bundled off it by Debuchy, who makes off with the ball. The England captain claims a foul, but come on.

55 min: Evra pops up to the left of the English goal and tries to fire a low cross into the middle. It's hacked out for a corner, which is wasted. This isn't quite the open sugar rush of the first half.

58 min: Johnson goes bombing down the right, and comes off worst in a 50-50 challenge with Ribery. The ball runs out for a goal kick. Excitement, please!

62 min: Gerrard swings in a corner from the right. Terry gets his head to it, but can't direct the ball goalwards. England keep possession, and shuttle the ball back out wide right to Gerrard, who nearly skips past Rami but has to settle for a second corner. Nothing comes from that, however.

65 min: Nasri and Benzema exchange a couple of one-twos, moving inside from the left. As close as football ever gets to a well-executed rolling maul. Eventually Benzema finds some space in the pocket, and hammers a shot straight at Hart. Very pretty.

68 min: Evra whips a cross into the England area from the left. Cole heads out for a corner on the opposite side of the pitch. The set piece goes straight down Hart's throat. The first half was magnificent entertainment; this is pretty bad, though. The crowd have responded to the rubbish the two teams are serving up by falling almost totally silent. Which reminds me: there's no England band parping away. By all accounts, they've been denied entry. Anyone annoyed by this state of affairs? Thought not. Seeing they've not been allowed into the match, perhaps they could spend the 90 minutes learning a second song?

71 min: Young is booked for a late slide on Benzema. Totally wanton, in the middle of the park. "The Bridget Riley inspired goalkeeper's kit is a good one," opines Gary Naylor, "but it's a shame that France don't go for the mid-80s La Vie Claire cycling top, a Mondrian masterpiece."

73 min: This is dreadful. And we're in total silence now, bar a few whistles. No band, though, so everyone's a winner.

75 min: End to end action! Benzema is this close to breaking clear down the inside-right channel, chasing a return pass from Nasri, but Johnson intercepts in time. Down the other end, Welbeck breaks down the left and rolls the ball inside to Oxlade-Chamberlain, who is close to bursting through down the inside-left. Then we're up the other end again, with Ribery reaching the byline to the right of goal, and aiming for a gap at the near post. Hart smothers.

78 min: A double switch by Hodgson: Oxlade-Chamberlain is replaced by Defoe, while Henderson comes on in Parker's stead. "They're for it now!" wrote Matt Dony as he watched the pair warm up. "France won't know what didn't hit them."

80 min: Johnson sticks an arm into Ribery's face as the pair battle down the left. Ribery scores 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 for his triple pike with salchow, multiplied by a full tariff for artistic merit. He's looking for Johnson to be booked, but come along. It is a free kick, though, and after a bit of this and that, Ribery cushions a header back to Cabaye on the edge of the area. The midfielder shapes himself like a cut-price Zidane In 2002 Champions League Final, and unleashes a wonderful volley goalwards. England thank their lucky stars Welbeck got something in the way, deflecting the ball wide left for a corner. Which is wasted.

83 min: It's getting a wee bit stretched, this. Defoe is probing down the right, but can't quite get a cross or shot away. Up the other end, Debuchy slides in on Cole and skates free down the right, but his low pass inside can't find the lurking Benzema.

84 min: And now a double change by Laurent Blanc: Cabaye is replaced by Ben Arfa, while Martin comes on for Malouda. "Ignoring Thomas Midlane's advice, I did stare at Joe Hart's shirt Magic Eye style," writes Ewan Benson. "If you are patient, you can just start to make out the image of the winning goal sneaking under him."

86 min: Benzema, the ball at his feet on the left-hand corner of the England area, looks for the top right. It's ambitious, but might just be going in. Just as well for England, then, that Gerrard gets in the way. Corner. Which is wasted. "I'm surprised you're bemoaning the lack of quality and entertainment," writes Sally Ledger. "Did anyone have any expectation of anything different? What I'm delighted about is that we're not being whumped."

88 min: England are tapping it around the back, in no hurry to move the ball upfield. They're clearly happy with their point. Mind you, France are hardly pushing too hard either, despite enjoying the lion's share of possession. Here's Stephen Davenport: "You know, I couldn't put my finger on why I was enjoying this England game more than usual but you've removed the scales from my eyes. And ears. That cursed 'band' is absent. They who make any England game almost unwatchable. Or at least unlistenable. Thank you, Donbass Arena security. Thank you."

89 min: A bit of space for Milner down the right. His low cross towards Welbeck is cut out by a sliding Mexes. Corner. From which nowt comes.

90 min: Walcott comes on for Welbeck. "You had to mention that effing tune the England supporters aren't playing," moans JOhnny Dixon. "Can't get it out of my head now, not even Fairytale of New York will shake it. Effing nora." They're singing God Save The Queen now. That doesn't make things better, does it?

FULL TIME: France 1-1 England. Benzema, 25 yards out to the left, aims for the bottom right. Hart gathers. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is that. France were the better side, just about, but despite all their pretty passing and possession failed to put England, who defended resolutely, in that much danger. Mr Roy will be happy enough with that. But not everyone is. Final word to Alex Silcox: "If only we'd played like we do in my head between your updates..."

comments powered by Disqus