In 1796, the French determined to attack the Austrian colonies in Italy. The great Corsican officer, Napoleon Bonaparte guided the army through the Alps, to achieve impressive triumphs over Austria at Lodi, Rivoli, the Brenta, and Arcola. He soldered a young, starved and sullen army into a power, which won repeatedly against, the supposedly stronger, Austrians.
Such was the thought when Laurent Blanc’s men took to the pitch against England today in Donetsk, Ukraine. Only difference was that he wasn’t able to break down the stringent English defense.
Hopes are high on this group of Les Blues to perform especially after the disappointing and pathetic exit from the World Cup, two years ago.
A similar past exists in the minds of the English fans as they failed to qualify for the Euros in 2008.
Through out the game, it was obvious who had the attacking mentality of the two. Between the French offensive line-up of Benzema, Cabaye (Ben Arfa), Nasri and Ribery, a lot of touches of the ball and inter-linking play were expected. And so was it displayed with Nasri and Ribery looking more dangerous than their English counterparts.
For the English, it seemed like A. Oxlade-Chamberlain was the brightest spot in terms of their attack as he managed to run past defenders with certain ease… when he did actually have the ball. Reasons were quite obvious for his selection in the first team as he is blessed with huge amount of pace and enormous quantity of talent.
There had been a big debate on whether John Terry should have been included in the squad as he was stripped of captaincy twice. He will be facing the court for the alleged racism case against him by Anton Ferdinand, after the championship. It raises the question of inconsistency by the English FA specifically, when compared to Luis Suarez’s case. But that is whole another discussion in itself.
In the first half, French attacked and England defended with an unexpected goal against the run of play scored by Lescott.
Great ball played by Gerrard into the box and Joleon Lescott headed it away in an unusual manner. The one time top scoring defender in the Premier League in his Everton days had just scored his first international goal.
It was as simple as it gets really. Of the minimal possession and build up play that the English were showing for, it all came down to a ingenuous old-fashioned goal. Many of us were probably expecting the English game to be unattractive but effective. And so it was.
Free kick – Header – Goal.
The weakness in the French defense was visible, considering the fact that their star midfielder, Yann M’Vila, was out for this game. However, his replacement Alou Diarra carried out his responsibilities very well in that position.
France did manage to pull one back before the half through Nasri as they looked more threatening going forward. After steady and patient probing from the Blues, along with England looking too comfortable sitting deep, trouble was invited. Samir Nasri managed to beat his Manchester City colleague Joe Hart with a well-placed shot. The defense actually gave him plenty of time to whip it in.
Come second half, England pressed higher up the field but that did not yield any positive outcome. The game had lost its pace by then and both teams looked like they were happy with the draw.
So for the moment, France’s unbeaten league run streak increases to 22, with a game against co-hosts Ukraine up next. Almost every match both teams will play from hereon will be infused with importance, but none more so than this one. For Roy Hodgson’s men the game could be measured as a satisfactory work in progress.