Match in a sentence
It was a dull affair in Donetsk, that put a French fan to sleep, but also saw England gain a valuable point and Laurent Blanc’s men extend their unbeaten streak to 22 games.
- France started with a 4-3-3 without the injured Yann M’Vila, and it saw Alou Diarra, Yohan Cabaye and Florent Malouda in the midfield. Blanc opted to go with the CB pairing of Mexes/Rami. He has stuck with this pairing since he has taken over as manager, but with both having poor seasons it seemed likely that Laurent Koscielny would replace one of them. Koscielny had a wonderful campaign for Arsenal, but Blanc stuck with the duo that he formed when he became French manager.
- England started with a 4-4-1-1 that saw Danny Welbeck lead the line and Ashley Young filling in for the suspended Wayne Rooney. The surprise in this XI was the start of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain that was on the left flank. The Ox had a positive start to the game but didn’t shine due to the lack of support as England’s two banks of four sat really deep. It got worse for him when Mathieu Debuchy started to get forward. This caused Chamberlain to track back and defend, it was a bit out of his element and he slowly didn’t really have much involvement in the game, it also saw him receive a yellow card.
- In the first half England tried to attack the weakness of the French by sending over the head balls towards Rami/Mexes for Welbeck and Young to latch onto. Although, I found that they were still shaky in dealing with those balls, the problem was that the Alou Diarra and Florent Malouda were too far away from the CB duo which allowed space for England to penetrate the French defence.
- That also set up England’s first chance which should’ve been a goal. Young was found in the hole between the French midfield and defence and slipped through a sublime ball to James Milner who rounded French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, but Milner flashed his off balanced shot wide.
- The shocker came in the 30th minute when Steven Gerrard whipped in a wonderful free kick that Joleon Lescott headed past Lloris and saw England take the lead.
- Although, Diarra was held responsible for losing Lescott, He played a monumental role throughout the game in canceling out Young.
- Throughout most of the first half, the movement of Samir Nasri and Franck Ribery were excellent. England was also giving France too much space to dictate the game, and was slow at closing down their options. That sadly led to the French goal, in which Ribery found Nasri, who had loads of time to smash his shot past Joe Hart on his near post. Although Hart might’ve seen the shot late, Gerrard who was deep in his 18 yard box took far too long to close down his man.
- The second half wasn’t any more appealing than the first. It saw a frustrated French side dominate 63% of the possession but failed to nick a winner.
- England were organized, disciplined and compact but failed to generate any offensive spark and it was down to their poor transitions when they attempted to hit France on the break. They found it difficult because Diarra did an outstanding job in marking Young off the pitch. The no 10. Figure is so vital in this soak up the pressure and hit on the break system, and Young was merely non-existent. You can say England were somewhat clinical, as they nicked a goal with only taking three shots throughout the whole game.
- England’s two banks of four were narrow and although France did get the ball into wide areas, they failed to produce much in those areas and just simply racked up their corner count. England take a valuable point from this game as many felt they never really stood a chance. The pairing of Gerrard/Parker who has yet to impress were yet again mediocre. They need to close down spaces faster and be more disciplined when defending. They tend to get caught out of position far too easily by jumping into tackles and chasing the runner on the ball. England also need to find a way to get Young more involved in the game, as Welbeck was great running the channels but never really linked up with Young as he didn’t see much of the ball.
- France will head in to their next fixture against Ukraine feeling they possibly could’ve won the game, but will be content with the point. There ball movement was slow and it made it easier for England’s narrow eight to soak up pressure. They had much of the ball and the movement of the attacking three especially Samir Nasri was exceptional. Unfortunately they hardly threatened England as most of their shots were from a distance. They lacked creativity/a player to provide that killer pass and Blanc could’ve fixed this but he introduced the likes of Marvin Martin a creative playmaker and Hatem Ben Arfa a player that could play between the lines or in the hole and has the ability to link up with Karim Benzema 20 minutes too late. Benzema was frustrated with his service in the first half, which forced him to drop far too deep in the second half in order to receive the ball. In result he, alongside the rest of the team failed to get behind the England defence and took most of their shots outside of the box. France don’t have to worry as much as England but if they’re unable to unlock and get behind a defence that is narrow and organized than it could be a short tournament for Les Bleu.
- On a final note, you don’t hear this often but Glen Johnson was good for once. I for one gave him no chance against Ribery but he seemed to have coped well sitting deep in a defence led by John Terry, I thought he was great.
- Samir Nasri
- Joleon Lescott
- Mathieu Debuchy
Honourable mention goes to Glen Johnson. He was fantastic.