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Football | Uefa Euro 2012™

Franck Ribery © Reuters Images

England play 'as ugly as Chelsea'

England pronounced themselves more than satisfied with their 1-1 draw with France in their 2012 opener on Monday, delighted to avoid defeat against a side now unbeaten in 22 matches.

But the defensive nature of their performance drew criticism in many quarters, with several France players and newspapers saying it was "like playing Chelsea."

If England do as well in the Championships as Chelsea did in the Champions League, of course, they will not care what anyone says.

The English translation of Tuesday's headline in German newspaper Bild read: "Ribery stumbles into the Euros. England play as ugly as Chelsea" - finding a way to criticise Bayern Munich's Ribery at the same time as England.

France's Manchester United full back Patrice Evra told BBC Radio 5 Live that "at times it was like there were 15 bodies on the line.

"It was really difficult for us to find the space because they played in the way that Chelsea played against Barcelona.

"People laugh ... maybe they want England to play more football but, if they win the tournament like that, they will be happy."

Manchester City midfielder Samir Nasri, who scored France's equalising goal against England, echoed Evra's sentiments but said it was a fair way to play.

"We played against a good side in England, who played well," he said. "They gave us some difficulties to find a solution up front, because they play low (deep), a little bit like Chelsea."

With Wayne Rooney suspended for the opening two matches, England's options in attack were limited and manager Roy Hodgson had no qualms in admitting he was trying to make England hard to beat.

"I hope this gives us a good platform," Hodgson said. "We played well and I am obviously pleased for the players most of all. We were playing against a top team who ask questions of you when they get the ball.

"They are very patient with a lot of talented players. When they get the ball around your final third they don't panic so you have to be very disciplined in your defending.

"So to come away with a 1-1 and to have asked the questions we did, I have got to be quite happy."

With Theo Walcott and Andy Carroll left on the substitutes' bench, England's attack was centred around Danny Welbeck and Hodgson said he hoped to become more expansive as the tournament goes on.

"Sure, we need to improve our final ball," he said.

"The decision-making in the final third was sometimes a bit anxious, but we'll get better. The longer we play together, the better we'll become. I hope we've established ourselves as hard to beat."

England full back Ashley Cole, part of the Chelsea side that won the Champions League, said there was nothing wrong with being organised.

"If you look through the Premier League, the English players seem to be renowned for working hard for each other, always getting behind each other and I think it worked," he said.

"We tried to block the middle off to let them go wide, because we know they like to do one-twos, and I think it worked."

England goalkeeper Joe Hart said he was largely unsighted for Nasri's goal, a fine strike which crept inside his near post.

"If I see it, I'd like to think I save it," he said.

And Nasri said he would enjoy making fun of his Manchester City teammate when they return to their clubs later in the summer.

"I know that he knows me at training when I shoot, so instead of opening my foot I curled it in the near post and he was a little surprised," Nasri said.

"I am really happy that I scored and when we go back (to Manchester City) I can tease him."

In their eight appearances in the finals of the European Championships, England have yet to win their opening fixture and expectations, at least in the British press, remain low.

"Yippee, we got a draw," said The Sun.


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