Football: England prove point with gritty draw: press

LONDON - England's hard-fought 1-1 draw against France in their Euro 2012 opener restored a measure of pride to the Three Lions and hinted at a brighter future under new boss Roy Hodgson, Britain's press said Tuesday.

The former Inter Milan manager's tactical experience was vital in securing a point against a France team now unbeaten in 22 games, the country's critical media concluded.

The Daily Telegraph's Henry Winter likened Hodgson's team's dogged performance to a battle between English Roundheads and French musketeers.

"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," he wrote.

Popular tabloid The Sun, Fleet Street's most influential football voice, praised Hodgson's ability to send out a competitive team despite a crippling set of injuries and suspensions.

"All things considered, Roy Hodgson should take a bow," said columnist Steve Howard.

"After so many years of gung-ho drum-banging, our default mode is now pessimism - and no bad thing," he continued.

"That is why we can look at this result as progress".

Sun colleague and former England striker Ian Wright also celebrated the precious point, but insisted that the players needed to show more attacking intent if they are to go far in the tournament.

The spirit shown by England was in sharp contrast to their displays at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, when an unhappy squad under the watch of Fabio Capello scraped through the group stages before being thrashed by Germany.

The Guardian's Daniel Taylor said the result reflected a "reasonably satisfying evening's work" and that Hodgson had built a solid platform on "all the usual English qualities of application and structure."

However, he pointed out that the perennial problem of ball retention demonstrated the team "are still, very evidently, a work in progress".

England took the lead thanks to Manchester City defender Joleon Lescott's first-half header, but were hauled back ten minutes later through club teammate Samir Nasri's clever finish.

The Times ran with front-page headline "Donetsk best thing: England draw first match", in reference to the sweltering Ukrainian venue which hosted Monday's stalemate.

The broadsheet described the performance as "gritty not pretty", but one which demonstrated "the fighting qualities they will need to give themselves a chance at Euro 2012."

"While nobody should claim it was a flawless performance, the sight of England performing at a leading tournament with that attitude is cause enough, after previous disappointments, to hail this is a point made as well as a point gained," said its match report.

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