Joleon Lescott had put them in front after half an hour. They could only hold the lead for nine minutes, though, as Samir Nasri struck from the edge of the area and England never really looked like restoring their advantage, instead relying on the obdurate defensive traits that have been so evident in Roy Hodgson's previous two friendlies in charge.
As France are expected to advance from Group D, the new manager could be pretty pleased with the outcome on a sweltering night.
There are obvious deficiencies, though, and it is going to take far longer than the six weeks Hodgson has had to prepare for this competition to drill home the importance of keeping hold of the ball.
So much has changed in the two years since South Africa, yet by half-time there was an uncomfortable sense the fundamentals remained the same.
Five of Hodgson's first competitive starting line-up were on duty for the World Cup opener in Rustenburg, when England blitzed the United States, got their noses in front and then needlessly tossed away the advantage.
Steven Gerrard scored that night. This time he was the provider, curling over a superb free-kick from the touchline, where James Milner had been nudged over by Patrice Evra.
Lescott would not have been playing if Gary Cahill's tournament had not been ended by a broken jaw before it had begun.
The Manchester City man is a threat in these situations and got away from Alou Diarra at the far post to beat goalkeeper Hugo Lloris from point-blank range.
It could quite easily have been doubling the advantage as not long before, Milner had raced onto Ashley Young's through-ball and skipped round Lloris.
On Twitter, Gary Lineker revealed in such situations, you should always aim beyond the far post because in almost every instance, the ball ends up being cut towards the near.
Unfortunately, Milner does not have the striking instinct of the man who scored 48 goals for his country. He did what came naturally, and the ball ended up rolling wide.
These were brief moments in the ascendancy for England though.
Having already recorded the pre-match temperature at 31 degrees, UEFA came up with another startling statistic at half-time, namely France had completed 299 passes to England's 171. By the end it was 634 to 307.
It was indicative of an old English failing and explained why France dictated most of the game.
Twenty-one games unbeaten, the French response to going behind was swift.
A nervy-looking Joe Hart produced a fine save to deny Diarra, who climbed highest to reach a Nasri free-kick, very similar in execution to Gerrard's earlier.
Franck Ribery cut the rebound back into the danger area but Diarra was unable to locate the target.
On their next attack, France had more success.
An intricate passing move on the edge of the area, starting with Evra, led to Ribery rolling a pass back to Nasri, who gave himself space with the first touch and beat Hart with his second.
The replays did not look good for the England keeper, even if criticism should be tempered by the knowledge Nasri had far too much time to pick his spot.
This depressingly familiar pattern for those who crave a bit of guile and creativity continued after the break, even if England's lack of finesse was matched by their defensive belligerence.
Karim Benzema's ferocious long-range effort was well saved by Hart and from a similar distance, Florent Malouda's shot cannoned into Scott Parker.
The outstanding Yohan Cabaye then came agonisingly close with another well-struck shot that flicked narrowly wide off Danny Welbeck.
By this stage, England had introduced Jermain Defoe in an effort to provide Welbeck with more orthodox support.
Sat behind the dug-out, suspended Wayne Rooney was living every kick, doubtless both him and Hodgson wishing he could do something more meaningful.
Yet it also said something about the respective strengths of the two squads that whilst Hodgson introduced Jordan Henderson because Parker was flagging, Laurent Blanc had Hatem Ben Arfa up his sleeve.
Gerrard stuck his neck out to turn a goalbound effort from Benzema over the bar, before England finally created some excitement of their own as Milner rolled a cross to the near post for Welbeck, which Philippe Mexes stretched out a leg to reach first.
Injury-time brought just one French opportunity, for Benzema, but Hart saved to complete a decent night's work for Hodgson's men, even if solid, rather than spectacular looks to be the way forward.EURO 2012 GROUP STAGES Friday June 8
Poland 1 Greece 1POLAND: Szczesny, Piszczek, Wasilewski, Perquis, Boenisch, Murawski, Polanski, Blaszczykowski, Obraniak, Rybus (Tyton 69), Lewandowski.Goal: Lewandowski 17.GREECE: Chalkias, Torosidis, Papastathopoulos, Avraam Papadopoulos (Kyriakos Papadopoulos 36), Holebas, Maniatis, Katsouranis, Karagounis, Ninis (Salpingidis 46), Gekas (Fortounis 68), Samaras.Goal: Salpingidis 51.
Russia 4 Czech Republic 1RUSSIA: Malafeev, Aniukov, Berezutsky, Ignashevich, Zhirkov, Shirokov, Denisov, Zyryanov, Dzagoev (Kokorin 84), Kerzhakov (Pavlyuchenko 73), Arshavin.Goals: Dzagoev 15, Shirokov 24, Dzagoev 79, Pavlyuchenko 82.CZECH REP: Cech, Gebre Selassie, Hubnik, Sivok, Kadlec, Plasil, Jiracek (Petrzela 75), Pilar, Rosicky, Rezek (Hubschman 46), Baros (Lafata 85).Goal: Pilar 52.Saturday June 9
Holland 0 Denmark 1HOLLAND: Stekelenburg, Van Der Wiel (Kuyt 84), Heitinga, Vlaar, Willems, Van Bommel, Nigel De Jong (Van der Vaart 71), Robben, Sneijder, Afellay (Huntelaar 71), van Persie.DENMARK: Andersen, Jacobsen, Kjaer, Agger, Simon Poulsen, Kvist Jorgensen, Zimling, Rommedahl (Mikkelsen 83), Eriksen (Schone 74), Krohn-Delhi, Bendtner.Goal: Krohn-Delhi 24.
Germany 1 Portugal 0GERMANY: Neuer, Boateng, Hummels, Badstuber, Lahm, Khedira, Schweinsteiger, Muller (Bender 90), Ozil (Kroos 87), Podolski, Gomez (Klose 80).Goal: Gomez 72.PORUGAL: Rui Patricio, Joao Pereira, Bruno Alves, Pepe, Fabio Coentrao, Meireles (Varela 80), Veloso, Joao Moutinho, Nani, Postiga (Nelson Oliveira 70), Ronaldo.Sunday June 10
Republic of Ireland 1 Croatia 3 REP IRELAND: Given, O'Shea, St. Ledger, Dunne, Ward, McGeady (Cox 54), Whelan, Andrews, Duff, Doyle (Walters 53), Keane (Long 75).Goal: St. Ledger 19.CROATIA: Pletikosa, Srna, Corluka, Schildenfeld, Strinic, Vukojevic, Rakitic (Dujmovic 90), Modric, Perisic (Eduardo 89), Mandzukic, Jelavic (Kranjcar 72).Goals: Mandzukic 3, Jelavic 43, Given 49 og.
Spain 1 Italy 1
SPAIN: Casillas, Arbeloa, Pique, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba, Xavi, Busquets, Alonso, Silva (Jesus Navas 65), Fabregas (Torres 74), Iniesta.Goal: Fabregas 64.ITALY: Buffon, Chiellini, De Rossi, Bonucci, Giaccherni, Marchisio, Pirlo, Thiago Motta (Nocerino 89), Maggio, Cassano (Giovinco 65), Balotelli (Di Natale 56).Goal: Di Natale 60.Monday June 11
France 1 England 1
FRANCE: Lloris, Debuchy, Rami, Mexes, Evra, Nasri, Cabaye (Ben Arfa 84), Diarra, Malouda (Martin 84), Ribery, Benzema.Goal: Nasri 39.ENGLAND: Hart, Johnson, Terry, Lescott, Cole, Milner, Gerrard, Parker (Henderson 77), Oxlade-Chamberlain (Defoe 77), Young, Welbeck (Walcott 90).Goal: Lescott 30.
Ukraine 2 Sweden 1
UKRAINE: Pyatov, Gusev, Mykhalyk, Khacheridi, Selin, Yarmolenko, Tymoschuk, Konoplianka (Devic 90), Nazarenko, Voronin (Rotan 84), Shevchenko (Milevskiy 81).Goals: Shevchenko 55, 62.SWEDEN: Isaksson, Lustig, Mellberg, Granqvist, Martin Olsson, Elm, Kallstrom, Larsson (Wilhelmsson 69), Ibrahimovic, Toivonen (Svensson 63), Rosenberg (Elmander 71).Goal: Ibrahimovic 52.Tuesday June 12 Wroclaw, Group A: Greece v Czech Republic (1700) Warsaw, Group A: Poland v Russia (1945) Wednesday June 13 Lviv, Group B: Denmark v Portugal (1700) Kharkiv, Group B: Holland v Germany (1945) Thursday June 14 Poznan, Group C: Italy v Croatia (1700) Gdansk, Group C: Spain v Republic of Ireland (1945) Friday June 15 Donetsk, Group D: Ukraine v France (1700) Kiev, Group D: Sweden v England (1945) Saturday June 16 Wroclaw, Group A: Czech Republic v Poland (1945) Warsaw, Group A: Greece v Russia (1945) Sunday June 17 Kharkiv, Group B: Portugal v Holland (1945) Lviv, Group B: Denmark v Germany (1945) Monday June 18 Gdansk, Group C: Croatia v Spain (1945) Poznan, Group C: Italy v Republic of Ireland (1945) Tuesday June 19 Donetsk, Group D: England v Ukraine (1945) Kiev, Group D: Sweden v France (1945) QUARTER-FINALS Thursday June 21 Warsaw, QF1: Winner A v Runner-up B (1945) Friday June 22 Gdansk, QF2: Winner B v Runner-up A (1945) Saturday June 23 Donetsk, QF3: Winner C v Runner-up D (1945) Sunday June 24 Kiev, QF4: Winner D v Runner-up C (1945) SEMI-FINALS Wednesday June 27 Donetsk, SF1: Winner QF1 v Winner QF3 (1945) Thursday June 28 Warsaw, SF2: Winner QF2 v Winner QF4 (1945) FINAL Sunday July 1 Kiev: Winner SF1 v Winner SF2 (1945)