England vs. France: Biggest Heroes and Zeroes for Les Bleus

Nathan JudahCorrespondent IJune 11, 2012

England vs. France: Biggest Heroes and Zeroes for Les Bleus

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    It was extremely difficult for Laurent Blanc's side to find a way through a resilient England but on reflection a draw was probably a fair result.

    Trying to play attractive, free flowing football against a side who put ten men behind the ball was always going to be extremely difficult.

    However, there were plenty more positives for Les Bleus to take away from the game when compared to their negative opposition.

    It was certainly a marked improvement following their disastrous World Cup campaign yet there is still plenty more room for improvement.

    Here are the biggest heroes and zeroes from the opening Group D game.  

Karim Benzema: Zero

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    With so much hype surrounding the Real Madrid striker, Karim Benzema produced an incredibly underwhelming performance.

    Often left isolated on his own, the 24-year-old struggled to make any kind of impact on the game.

    Expertly marshalled by John Terry and Joleon Lescott, Benzema looked a dejected figure throughout the second half.

    His only real strong effort on goal was a pretty comfortable save for Hart just after the break, but for one of the big favourites to win the Golden Boot; it was an extremely disappointing start.

    Laurent Blanc will look to his main striker to be a lot more productive in their next game with Ukraine on Friday.

Franck Ribery: Hero

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    Franck Ribery was his usually magnificent self throughout the game and along with Samir Nasri, was France's standout player.

    In reflection, the Bayern Munich winger was unlucky not to walk away with the Man-of-the-Match award himself.

    He played a beautiful pass to Nasri for the equaliser, Ribery was given plenty of space to do what he does best.

    He worked tirelessly to unlock the bus England's defence had parked in front of Joe Hart's goal and will surely have more success in the upcoming games.

    Most importantly, Ribery wanted the ball at all times, he wasn't afraid to make mistakes and covered a huge amount of ground in the process.

    He will be indispensable to Les Bleus going forward. 

Florent Malouda : Zero

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    Florent Malouda came into the tournament looking to make a big impression with constant speculation regarding his Chelsea future.

    But we saw a frustrating extension to his EPL season as the winger struggled to make any kind of relevant impact on the game.

    With England constantly playing deeper and deeper, France had a fantastic chance to put plenty of pressure on the defence from the wide areas.

    Whether their tactics determined a more direct route along the ground rather than crosses from wide is up for debate, but the 31-year-old should have wanted the ball more.

    For the extraordinary amount of possession France had in the game, Malouda should have been heavily involved—he was anonymous.

    He will have to up his game if selected for the Ukraine game.

Samir Nasri: Hero

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    A constant threat throughout the game, Samir Nasri was at his very best.

    Allowed to come in from the right side, the Manchester City starlet was constantly on the ball pressing England deeper and deeper into their own half.

    Whether it was his exchanges with Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema or his own forays forward; France's best chances of scoring were always through the 24-year-old.

    It came as no surprise when he got on the score-sheet after beating teammate Joe Hart at his near post less than ten minutes after Joleon Lescott's opener.

    Maybe Nasri's EPL contributions this season were fresh in a lot of the England players mind; whatever the reason, he was given too much respect and time on the ball.

    France will be looking for the midfielder to reproduce his Man-of-the-Match display on plenty more occasions should they go deep into the tournament.

Philippe Mexes: Zero

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    Mexes has been one of the best defenders in world football for the last decade but this tournament could be a step too far the AC Milan centre-back.

    He looked decidedly flat footed alongside Adil Rami (who did not fair much better) despite England's few forays forward.

    He was indecisive when asked to play a high line and looked shaky at the best of times when marking Danny Welbeck.

    A distinct lack of pace from the veteran combined with a lack of cohesion with his partner should have led to more goals from an unimaginative England side who were more than happy to settle for the draw.

    Definitely the weakest point in the side, Blanc should have plenty of advice for his problematic defence going forward.