Paper Round: England's triumphant draw

From the look of some of Tuesday's headlines, you'd think that England had just made it safely through the Euro 2012 group stage.


"Job done!" screams the front page of the Daily Star, while the Daily Mirror has a picture of Steven Gerrard roaring above the headline "YEEEES!"

The Daily Express follows suit with "Roy has lift-off", and we like the Independent's "Point made", which runs alongside the best picture of the day, a stunning image of Joleon Lescott heading past French keeper Hugo Lloris.

The Sun's verdict of the match mixes that same triumphalism with a heavy dose of irony on its front page: "Yippee! A draw!" says the giant headline, with a picture of an unsmiling Roy Hodgson giving a thumbs-up.

Across the Channel, however, the French are already feeling the pressure after failing to produce the expected win.

"C'est deja chaud!" blasts the front page of L'Equipe, which roughly translated means "It's already heating up", a line which leads their piece lamenting the fact that Les Bleus "weren't able to dominate England, though they were rarely troubled themselves". The paper adds that the game against co-host nation Ukraine is already a must-win clash for Laurent Blanc's men.

France's Le Monde claims that the tension in the match subdued both sides, but left France feeling "the painful sensation that, with a bit more audacity, Les Bleus could have grabbed the win".

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Back on these shores The Sun's Steven Howard gives the England boss a pat on the back after a solid result: "All things considered, Roy Hodgson should take a bow. After the injuries, the Rio Ferdinand business, no Wayne Rooney and with less than a month to get his team together, the boy done well.

"Sure, we’ll never win Euro 2012 performing like this... But it was still a patched-up, ragtag and bobtail army that Hodgson had to send out to ensure he didn’t get off to the worst possible start in his first competitive match as England boss."

Ian Wright writing in the same paper does not agree, giving Hodgson a mauling: "I have to say it was pretty negative, that was the overriding feeling. Then again, I don’t suppose I should have expected too much different, because that’s how his teams tend to play — two defensive midfielders and the wingers tucked in... We’d have all taken a draw beforehand, but for me it was just so frustrating that it was all about not losing, rather than winning."

Oliver Kay in The Times put a more positive spin on things: "It was not a display to delight the aesthetes or the purists, but, as a demonstration of the fighting qualities they will need to give themselves a chance at Euro 2012, it was encouraging... Put simply, England played like a team. Not a brilliant team, not like leading contenders to emerge from this tournament as champions of Europe for the first time, but as a collective enterprise."

Yet the Daily Mail thought that England were much the better side, reporting that Hodgson's men, "were left frustrated after more than matching France".

Also in the Mail, Jamie Redknapp was left worried by what he saw in the centre of the park, saying that the 4-4-2 system left Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker with too much to do: "It's hard to play with two central midfielders in international football when most rivals, like France, play with three. France are a good team but not outstanding and the workload for these two England midfielders was too great. That was a hard game for the pair, not because of a lack of fitness or because of a long season but because they were outnumbered."

Redknapp was also left underwhelmed by France, calling them "overrated" and asking "how many of their players would get into the England team?"

Well Jamie, since you're asking: we reckon about eight.

In The Times Tony Cascarino also goes some way to answering that question too, pointing out that while Danny Welbeck and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are "fine players" they are "not at the same level, of recognition or experience" as the likes of Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema.

Cascarino praises the team, however, pointing out that "this is actually a hugely atypical England side: they are not all huff and puff and blood and thunder. Instead, Hodgson has set his team up to be tactically disciplined, so that each player knows their role and all the little gaps are plugged. It is the sort of approach we would have expected of the Italians in years gone by. It's just ironic England needed to replace their Italian manager with a home-grown one to introduce such a system."

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In the Daily Star Brian Woolnough agrees, adding that, "what impressed me most was how they kept their shape and belief after France had equalised late in the first half". Anyone who remembers England's last European Championship encounter with France back in 2004 will agree heartily with that sentiment.

The Daily Telegraph's Henry Winter is also positive: "This was a night of a few concerning points, over losing the ball, defending deep and lacking sufficient guile, but ultimately this was a night of one very good point. England hit the Group D ground running, not stumbling, drawing against technically superior opponents."

The Mail's columnist Martin Samuel was left underwhelmed by the side, however, with staggeringly open laziness simply popping England into the Roy Hodgson box in his head, even if he tempers his criticism: "Hard to beat. It is Roy Hodgson’s trademark but also the source of his greatest irritation... The football England played, though, suggests Hodgson may have to get used to being admired rather than revered, certainly short-term, (but) talk of dourness is not intended as complaint. If England did not do enough to win, they defended well enough to draw, which is better than many predicted."

The Daily Mirror's Oliver Holt takes the exact opposite view, hooking his analysis on the selection of Oxlade-Chamberlain - and gives Hodgon's team a big thumbs-up: "It was a bold choice. It moved England up a gear. And it contributed to the fact that England started this tournament where so little is expected of them on a high... Not bad for an old stick-in-the-mud. Not too shabby for a manager who was supposed to be afraid to take a risk. A guy who was outmoded and unfashionable and wedded to conservative choices."

The Guardian's Richard Williams also praises Hodgson's faith in Oxlade-Chamberlain, though he is not so convinced about how well the 18-year-old did: "Oxlade-Chamberlain never looked overawed, but his lack of experience comes into play when the ball is at his feet and there is the opportunity to make things happen. At the moment he rushes his pass, or lacks the coolness to see a move ahead. It was nevertheless good to see Hodgson willing to take a gamble by picking an 18‑year‑old... Oxlade-Chamberlain has a solidity to him, and an air of concentration."

Funnily enough the French do not share the positive assessment of Oxlade-Chamberlain, the Arsenal youngster picking up just four out of 10 in L'Equipe's player ratings.

Those ratings in full are: Hart 6; Johnson 5, Terry 6, Lescott 7, Cole 5; Milner 6, Gerrard 7, Parker 6, Ox 4, Young 4, Welbeck 4. The French fared little better, incidentally: Lloris 5, Debuchy 6, Mexes 7, Rami 4, Evra 5, Cabaye 6, Diarra 6, Malouda 4, Nasri 7, Benzema 4, Ribery 6.

And finally, the most baffling piece of the day comes from the Guardian's Barney Ronay, who appears to have downed half a gallon of pomposity before writing his piece about the match (an article which for a reason known only to God and the Guardian editor graces the paper's front page): "Hunkered in illuminated glass and steel splendour on the eastern fringe of Ukraine's industrial heartland, the Donbass arena in Donetsk proved a fraught but ultimately hospitable home from home for England's footballers on a night of rather underwhelming progress for the team's hopes at Euro 2012."

It doesn't stop there, mixing half-remembered GCSE history facts with stuff apparently cribbed from the Rough Guide to Ukraine: "Quite what Donetsk's hardy Stakhanovites past – the original Soviet mining hero was a local – would have made of the pre-match ceremony of synchronised pith-helmeted Euro-disco dancing (complete with polystyrene pick axes) is open to question. But Donetsk is rightly proud of its identity as a rough, tough frontier town of extraction and refinery, first colonised in the 1870s under the aegis of the Welsh entrepreneur John Hughes."


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