at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Donetsk, Ukraine -
Steven Gerrard hailed England's “unbreakable” defence after managing to frustrate France to earn a crucial 1-1 draw in their Euro 2012 opener.
The England captain led from the front with a tirless performance in central midfield as Roy Hodgson's side dug deep to hang on for a share of the points in sweltering conditions in the Donbass Arena.
Joleon Lescott had headed England into the lead before Samir Nasir fired home a long-range equaliser.
France went on to dominate for long periods in the second half as England faded but Gerrard believes his team-mates' defensive resilience augurs well for the remainder of the tournament.
“I thought we defended really well and were resolute. When we turned over possession, we looked really dangerous so I'm satisfied,” Gerrard said.
“Considering we haven't been together so long, I think the lads have taken the tactics on board really quickly.
“We're happy with the point but it only becomes a good point if we go and build on it now and try and we'll try to take the three points against Sweden.”
Gerrard meanwhile praised Hodgson for managing to gel the squad together despite only having been in charge for just over a month.
Asked if he was surprised by the speed of England's progress, Gerrard replied: “I'm not, because I know the manager really well and he puts the message across really well.
“But the boys have got to listen and take it on board and I thought tonight, we were unbreakable at times.
“It's a very good sign. To do well in these tournaments, you have to be good defensively and we were tonight.”
Gerrard's central midfield partner Scott Parker, who also put in a huge shift in the English engine room, praised the “heart and commitment” of his team-mates.
“I think the one thing we showed today was that we brought a lot of heart and a lot of commitment,” the Tottenham midfielder said.
“I don't know if that wins you tournaments but it's certainly a base for us to build on.
“It was a very solid performance against a team that have undoubtedly very, very good individuals who seem to get into pockets all over the pitch; they're very free off their formation.
“It was big hearts and a lot of courage from everyone out there, man to man. Hopefully we can now build on that and get more going forward. The formation stayed tight and we limited them to not a lot of chances, which was pleasing.”
Goalscorer Lescott meanwhile said the result would allow for England to look ahead to Friday's clash with Sweden with confidence.
“We can build on this,” he said. “It is always nice to score and this was extra special. It is the sort of goal you dream about.
“It is nice to keep clean sheets. We had a gameplan today and we are confident going into every game. We should be confident of getting a win. Our work ethic was important tonight.”
France's left-back Patrice Evra said Les Bleus were left frustrated at their failure to break down England, comparing their performance to Chelsea's defence-based victory against Barcelona in the Champions League.
“We are frustrated. I think we played much better. In the end it was a draw and we are a little bit frustrated,” the Manchester United star said.
“At times it was like there were 15 bodies on the time at times. It was really difficult for us to find the space.
“They played in the way that Chelsea played against Barcelona. Maybe they want England to play more football but if they win the tournament like that, they will be happy.” - Sapa-AFP