A solid start, now let’s beat the Swedes

Trevor Steven
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NOW the dust has settled on their opening match, England should be delighted with the draw. The circumstances were difficult, with players missing and Roy Hodgson only enjoying a short preparation period, and they were facing strong opposition, but they got their noses in front and, even when France equalised and took control, they deserved their point.

It was a solid start and offers them something to build on. You could never see it going brilliantly for England in this match, but you could have imagined it going terribly wrong, so Hodgson and his players will take encouragement from the result and performance. France are a better side but, on this evidence, England are not too far behind them and should expect to get out of the group.

I thought the whole back four played well and England performed their defensive duties admirably from front to back. Danny Welbeck and Ashley Young could have held onto the ball more when they got it, but in mitigation they were often left isolated as England’s two banks of four dropped increasingly deep. For the first quarter of an hour England were hugely impressive, getting in behind France and down the flanks, with James Milner even getting past the goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

The surprise in Hodgson’s selection was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who looked exciting, particularly in the first- half. The young Arsenal midfielder will go on to be influential at international level, I am sure, but needs to get on the ball more. France offered the perfect example of this; the likes of Karim Benzema, Samir Nasri and Franck Ribery find ways of getting the ball, rather than waiting for it.

The key for England now is to take something from the Sweden game on Friday, before they return to Donetsk for what is sure to be a tricky final group match against Ukraine.

Trevor Steven is a former England international who played at two World Cups and two European Championships. He now works as a scout and a media commentator.