France vs. England Euro 2012: Rating the England Players in Group D Opener
England and France opened their Euro 2012 accounts today with a 1-1 draw at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk.
Joleon Lescott opened the scoring for England with a 30th-minute header, only to be pegged back by a Samir Nasri retaliation strike in the 39th minute.
The result may yet turn out well for both teams, given the standard of opposition remaining—on paper at least.
Here are the England player ratings following their heavyweight clash.
Joe Hart had a shaky opening spell for England, spilling what seemed to be a meat and drink cross under no apparent pressure in the first half.
Questions will be raised over whether he should have done better with Samir Nasri's equalising strike. But, he showed his class and ability with a great save from Diarra and some speculative efforts from range via the foot of Karim Benzema.
The Liverpool full-back was a doubtful starter heading into the game, but was eventually cleared to play—perhaps saving Roy Hodgson from further questions regarding Martin Kelly.
Johnson had a steady game but only had one attacking attempt of note, blazing over when he should have really tested Hugo Lloris.
He had solid defensive display without any real mistakes to question his selection. Johnson did reasonably well marking the much-praised Ribery.
Could he have done more in the build up to France's goal? Possibly.
Ashley Cole hasn't been at his best in a Chelsea shirt for quite some time.
Perhaps his form has carried over into his international duties.
Cole was without his usual offensive threat against France—perhaps ordered so by Hodgson—whilst he also seemingly struggled to cope with the movement of Manchester City's Samir Nasri.
He was the most unimpressive performer of England's reasonably solid defensive display.
Much has been made of Terry's inclusion in the European Championships, following his alleged race row with Anton Ferdinand. On footballing ability alone, he must improve in order to win back favour with the fans.
A few early interceptions highlighted Terry's positional sense, but a player such as he should have been quicker in closing down Nasri's equalising strike.
Terry's leadership qualities should have ensured England's defence didn't sit as deep as they did.
Lescott was a hero when he headed home the opening goal of England's Euro 2012 campaign on the half-hour mark.
But, he must improve on his distribution if he wants to make it as a long-term England defender.
Lescott's aerial ability shone throughout the game—as both an attacking threat and defensive tool—but giving away possession cheaply can prove costly at this level.
Perhaps nerves could be to blame for his early tentativeness, but he's playing for the big boys now.
Given England's decision to start with a lone striker in Danny Welbeck, support from midfield was always going to be paramount to any England success going forward.
Young roamed the pitch and was responsible for a superb ball into Milner, who should have opened the scoring.
Booked for a poor challenge on Ribery in the second half, more is—and will be—expected of the Manchester United winger.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was a surprising starter for England, but looked sharp early on.
Some fabulous footwork in the first half made Alou Diarra look like a Sunday afternoon footballer, but his final ball was consistently poor throughout the game.
At such a young age it's hard to criticise such a raw talent. Not his best performance at all, but therein lies much hope going forward.
"The Ox" was replaced by Jermaine Defoe in the 77th minute, but the change was ineffective.
As always with James Milner, hard work and graft were assured.
His effectiveness on the wing was in serious question, even prior to kick-off, and the game itself didn't help his case for staying there beyond this match.
He missed an absolute sitter having rounded Lloris from Young's neat through-ball, but perhaps redeemed himself by winning the foul from which England scored.
Tasked with captaining England on what will likely be a long-term gig, Gerrard was his usual diligent self. But, he was sat far too deep to be an offensive threat.
With Scott Parker at his side, Gerrard should have been more prominent in the final third—thus likely giving France a lot more problems.
His delivery for Lescott's header was everything you'd expect from the Liverpool player—albeit it at the second attempt—but some of his general passing was unusually wayward.
Gerrard was the only player who seemed desperate to close down Nasri's equalising strike in the 39th minute.
Scott Parker's fitness looked questionable towards the end of the game, but he did a good job of shielding the England defence from too much French pressure.
Replaced by the young Jordan Henderson in the 78th minute, Parker was committed to the end by initially insisting to Hodgson that he was okay to play on.
He was occasionally bedazzled by the French midfield's quick footwork.
With just half a dozen caps to his name thus far, Danny Welbeck was probably England's best player on the pitch against France.
Left isolated and alone up front, Welbeck worked tirelessly hard to chase down defenders and make a nuisance of himself.
His link-up play boded well for the eventual return of Rooney, despite not managing a shot on goal himself.
He was replaced by Theo Walcott at the death.
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