Joe Hart
England goalkeeper Joe Hart dives in vein to prevent Samir Nasri's equalizer for France in their Euro 2012 match in Donetsk. Reuters

England and France kicked-off their Euro 2012 campaigns with a share of the points after a 1-1 draw in Donetsk,

In an engaging first period, England took the lead through Joleon Lescott's header before Samir Nasri pulled France level with a fine strike. But in an increasingly labored second-half, both sides failed to create clear-cut chances, despite France's territorial advantage.

The game began in expected fashion as France had the bulk of possession, with England content to get their two banks of four back behind the ball and rely on the counter attack.

With Ashley Young dropping off Danny Welbeck, that tactic proved an effective one. When England won the ball back they got it into Young early and the Manchester United man did well to consistently find space, escaping the attentions of French defensive midfielder Alou Diarra.

It was that play that almost led to England taking the lead in the 15th minute. Scott Parker found Young with room to move into and he picked the perfect pass to find James Milner running behind the French defense. The midfielder showed composure in taking the ball around goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, but with the ball running away from goal on his left side, Milner could only find the side netting with the goal at his mercy.

For a team predominantly set out to defend, set-pieces were always likely to prove an important outlet for creating chances. And so it proved as England took the lead on the half-hour mark. Steven Gerrard curled in a free-kick from deep on the right flank and Lescott arrived round the back of Diarra to head home from six yards out.

Diarra was not having the best of days and things got even worse for the Marseille man as he missed two chances in quick succession to make it 1-1. Nasri put in a free-kick from the right that Diarra met with a powerful header that went just too close to Hart, allowing the England stopper to make a good reaction save. From the rebound, Franck Ribery headed the ball back across and Diarra was there again, but this time could only send the ball wide of the far post.

France were time and again reaching the edge of the England box, with Samir Nasri, in particular, trying to feed the killer ball through to create an opening. But with England focused and filling any gaps in their back line, it was going to take something special for Les Bleus to get back on level terms.

And that's just what Nasri produced six minutes before the break. Ribery laid the ball back to Nasri on the edge of the box and on this occasion Gerrard just couldn't close the ball down quickly enough allowing the diminutive creator to fire a pin-point low effort that just beat the dive of Hart at his near post.

Not content with a draw, France increased the pressure for the remainder of the first half and England would have been relieved toget in at the break with a chance to regroup.

The second half began in much the same vein with France pegging England back. But gradually the pace started to ease off, with both sides perhaps feeling the effects of a hot and humid day in the Eastern Ukrainian city.

Karim Benzema tried to inject some pace into proceedings as he made a quick interchange of passes with Nasri outside the box, before firing a well-struck effort from 25 yards that Hart did well to hold onto as he dove down to his left.

With their energy levels dropping, England no longer had the same threat on the break and consequently were spending more and more time camped on the edge of their own box, often propelling their own bodies in the way to keep the ball away from Hart's goal.

Perhaps the most crucial block coming as Cabaye blasted a half-volley from the edge of the box that left England grateful that Lescott instinctively stuck out a leg to deflect the ball wide of Hart's post.

Bur for the most part, much of the second-half unraveled without great incident. A scenario that would have pleased England but likely left France coach Laurent Blanc frustrated at his side's inability to create chances having had so much of the ball.

As the dust settles, though, both coaches may reflect that it is a point that serves them both well going forward in this tournament. Games to come against Sweden and Ukraine are no formalities by any means, but France and England should now be confident of accumulating enough points to progress to the last eight.

[] France 0-1 England

by all-goals

[] France 1-1 England

by all-goals