Euro 2012: England will improve, says coach Roy Hodgson

 

Coach Roy Hodgson felt England's 1-1 draw against group favourites France was a "good platform" on which to build at Euro 2012.

Both sides enjoyed periods of dominance in energy-sapping heat in Donetsk, with England taking the lead through Joleon Lescott before Samir Nasri equalised.

"This gives us a good platform," Hodgson said after the Group D opener.

"Hopefully we'll get fitter. The more we train and get matches under our belts the fitter we'll become."

Hodgson, who took charge of his third England match and first competitive fixture, said he was pleased at how his side coped against a team unbeaten in two years.

"I have to be proud of their display. No player let us down. I was confident the players would not let us down," added the 64-year-old former West Bromwich Albion boss.

Euro 2012: England players happy with France draw

"France are one of the favourites in the group. They'd gone 21 games unbeaten and people were tipping them to be potential winners of the tournament.

"We can't deny on paper they might be the hardest game, but I've got a lot of respect for Sweden and Ukraine.

"I've got to be very proud of that performance. Maybe that final ball needs to improve and we were maybe a bit anxious in the final third.

"But there were good signs of a team wanting to do well."

Hodgson also paid tribute to 18-year-old Arsenal winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who was the surprise selection in the starting XI.

"He did quite well, he was dangerous," added the England coach.

"He has to be happy with his performance, but it was a great team performance. Everyone did their best to keep us in the game.

"Two or three times he skipped past players.

"I said to him before the game that it's a big occasion, but there will be several more big occasions so don't get too hung up about this. Do what you do. There will be lots more games for him in an England shirt."

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As a starting point this was perfectly acceptable. It was indeed a platform, an exercise in putting down foundations

Phil McNulty

Oxlade-Chamberlain himself was satisfied with his performance, which he said had to focus on his defensive qualities as well as his attacking potential.

"I think I did OK, but there's a lot more to come from me," he commented.

"At times it was a bit frustrating trying to get into the positions that I like to get into to run with the ball and attack defenders, but that is because we came up against a quality French side.

"I think it was more important for me to do a good defensive job, as we all did."

England goalscorer Joleon Lescott was delighted to score his first international goal.

He said: "It is always nice to score and this was extra special. It is the sort of goal you dream about.

"But the delivery was of such good quality that it made it easy to hit the target."

Captain Steven Gerrard added: "We would have been delighted with a win, but as you saw France have got fantastic players.

"We caused them as many problems as they caused us so we're satisfied with the performance."

Samir Nasri's equaliser flew past several players before beating his Manchester City team-mate Joe Hart .

"It's tough, we defended very deep after the goal and threw a lot of bodies in but Samir hits them well," said Hart.

"It's a good strike, obviously I want to save everything but not that time."

England face Sweden on Friday, before concluding their group fixtures against co-hosts Ukraine next Tuesday.

Highlights: France 1-1 England