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France reflect on what might have been
Published : 12 Jun 2012 03:17:14
France's players admitted frustration after failing to turn their dominance into victory against England in their Euro 2012 opener but took heart from their reaction to falling behind.
Laurent Blanc's side enjoyed 60 percent of possession and registered 15 shots on target to England's one at Donbass Arena on Monday but had to settle for only a point after Samir Nasri cancelled out Joleon Lescott's opener.
Pre-match predictions had centred around the likelihood of England being made to defend for long periods and although they started the game brightly, Roy Hodgson's men were forced to retreat in the second half as France took control.
Both teams had insisted in the build-up that their opponents were the favourites but Chelsea midfielder Florent Malouda admitted that his side might have come away with all three points had they been more clinical.
"We're not really satisfied -- it's a bit frustrating," said the 31-year-old, the most experienced player in France's squad with 78 caps.
"We wanted to win to start the competition well but looking at the start (of the match), it's a good result. We reacted well to England's goal.
"We had the possession but it wasn't enough. On a mental level, we weren't unsettled because the foundation of our play allows us to resume control at any moment. It was good to stay calm but we needed to do more."
His team-mate Yohan Cabaye admitted to feeling "a bit disappointed" but Karim Benzema said France's ability to rediscover their passing rhythm after a difficult start was a good sign.
"The first few minutes were a bit timid from us and we paid the price," said the Real Madrid striker. "But then we got into it bit by bit, we managed to come back and we made quite a few chances.
"We just lacked a bit of luck, because we moved them around a lot by playing one-touch football.
"It's not a relief (to have avoided defeat). I hope that next time we'll score one more goal than our opponents."
The draw extended France's unbeaten run to 22 matches -- the longest current stretch in international football and one which has helped erase memories of their disastrous 2010 World Cup campaign.
France had been buoyed by encouraging performances in their recent friendly wins over Serbia and Estonia but captain Hugo Lloris said being able to reproduce such a level against England was a real mark of the side's progress.
"We played some really good stuff when you think about the last two years," he said. "Against a really big country, it's a good point."
Blanc conceded he felt "slightly disappointed" and said that France had "played the most football" but he was encouraged by the displays of centre-backs Philippe Mexes and Adil Rami.
The pair have faced criticism over their recent performances and although they were tested by the movement and mobility of England forwards Ashley Young and Danny Welbeck, Blanc praised their application.
"We were aware that in the last two or three games they weren't at their best but we thought they would get back to fitness because they worked very hard," said Blanc.
"I'm very happy with the defensive pairing. They gave a great response. That's the best way to respond -- on the pitch."
France's next Group D assignment sees them tackle Ukraine in Donetsk on Friday. The tournament co-hosts are top of Group D after their 2-1 victory against Sweden in Kiev.