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England show signs of Hodgson's impact

England, organised and resolute in defence, fought till they dropped against an equally exhausted French side on a warm, humid night in the Donbass Arena.

While the opening game in Group D was not pretty, England's gritty defensive performance will have given them confidence that they can contain Europe's best at the finals.

For years England have underperformed in major tournaments after over-hyped media build-ups but they have come into this one with little expectation of doing well at all.

However, they showed against France that while not a great team, they might become a hard one to beat. There were glimpses of their promise in 1-0 friendly wins over Norway and Belgium and they sustained that form in their first real test.

If they get at least a point against Sweden in Kiev on Friday, the return of striker Wayne Rooney from a two-match suspension for the final group match against Ukraine on June 19 could help them over the line and into the last eight.

Hodgson's strength lies in the way he organises his teams defensively and he employed two lines of four against the more inventive French, deep inside England's half.

"I've had three games. If you ask me if I am satisfied and if the players have done what I have asked for in those three games - I'll answer with a resounding yes," he said.

"But now we've got Sweden, let's wait and see. To become a really good team, I don't think you do it in three matches and ten training sessions."


The secret of gaining a very important point against a more ambitious and settled French side was at the back.

John Terry and Joleon Lescott were sure-footed in the heart of the back four while Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole, winning his 95th cap, generally thwarted Franck Ribery and Samir Nasri when they came down the wings.

Although France largely dominated the second half, skipper Steven Gerrard and midfield foil Scott Parker added protection to the defensive lines to frustrate Laurent Blanc's men.

Lescott's added bonus was his first goal for England, a powerful header from a Gerrard free kick after 30 minutes, while the only time France pierced the English defensive shield was when Nasri struck from outside the box nine minutes later.

Lescott, Nasri and England keeper Joe Hart have all just won the English Premier League title with Manchester City and embraced at the end of a game in which a draw was probably an injustice for France.

They had 15 attempts on target to England's one and 19 in all compared to three. Manager Blanc, whose side have now gone 22 games unbeaten said: "We were good enough to not lose the game but we weren't good enough to win it."

The same could be said for England, but they were taking more heart from the result.