France rallied to extend their unbeaten streak after they had to settle for a lively 1-1 draw against England in their opening Euro Group D encounter on Monday.
France, who made an ignominious exit from the 2010 World Cup, and England, perennial under-achievers in major tournaments in the last decade, will not be too unhappy to take a point each as both will fancy their chances against co-hosts Ukraine and Sweden, the other teams in the group. France, riding a superb run of 21 unbeaten games, including 15 wins, were a touch more enterprising in the early minutes as both sides started cautiously. The French, adopting a pleasing short-passing game, made the early moves as England faced the first anxious moment when Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart dropped a cross, but he was lucky it fell at the feet of a defender and was cleared.
England, with the suspended striker Wayne Rooney watching from the stands and without the services of the injured Frank Lampard and Gary Cahill, gradually showed more purpose in their attacks. James Milner was put through on a couple of occasions and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain then broke down the left as he chased a pass from Ashley Young, only to be caught offside.
The Les Bleus probed for an opening at the other end as Karim Benzema, Samir Nasri and Franck Ribery kept the bunched-up England defence on tenterhooks. Still, it was England who went ahead at the half hour mark.
Captain Steven Gerrard floated a freekick on the right flank to the far post and Joleon Lescott shook his marker, rose high and sent a downward header past Hugo Lloris. But France responded in splendid fashion soon after. After another move down their favoured corridor to the left of the field, Ribery, with his back to the goal, touched it on for Nasri, who squeezed his shot between two defenders and between the diving Hart and the right post.
The French continued to enjoy possession and played dazzling passes time and again but England’s midfield played deep to support the defence and cut out the angles which Nasri, Benzema and Ribery looked to exploit. England's speedy counters were sporadic.