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Last Updated: Monday, 14 June, 2004, 11:26 GMT 12:26 UK
England can take heart despite defeat


By Terry Butcher
BBC Radio Five Live expert

England's players and management - plus supporters like myself - woke up on Monday morning thinking they had been having a bad dream.

England striker Wayne Rooney
You certainly get a bit of everything with this boy
They really beat France 1-0, and those last couple of minutes were just a nightmare.

Sadly this was reality, and England had to accept the fact that France had stolen a game from them that they had won.

There is no other way to describe it - this really was a steal after what I felt was a very effective and impressive England performance.

I understand there has been heavy criticism of coach Sven-Goran Eriksson's substitutions back home, but I actually think he got them spot on.

England needed fresh legs out there to combat wave after wave of French attacks in searing heat.

Michael Owen had not been in the game much, but obviously the contentious one was Wayne Rooney.

Rooney had just won a penalty with a blistering run, but maybe the feeling was that he was running out of steam or he might get himself into trouble.

You certainly get a bit of everything with this boy, and the game against France was no different, but I would not make a great case to say Eriksson called that one wrong.

England will look back on the France game as containing far more positives than negatives

I think he was right.

Lessons to be learned are that you simply can't give away free-kicks against France, or other class teams, in dangerous positions.

As soon as it was awarded, myself and my BBC colleagues in the commentary box - as well as plenty of fans I suspect - thought Zidane would score.

Of course Steven Gerrard made an error that led to Zidane's winner from the penalty, but you have to give credit to Thierry Henry, who read his intentions brilliantly.

And of course you have to take your chances at this level, and England paid dearly for David Beckham's second successive penalty miss for his country.

Thierry Henry and Sol Campbell go for the ball
Campbell contained club team-mate Henry well

I felt very sorry for England's back four, who I thought were absolutely immense. France didn't create any real chances, and Henry's intervention for the penalty was his only serious contribution.

I thought Sol Campbell was fantastic - one clearing header in the second half was one I would have dined out on, going from his own penalty area to the half-way line - some defenders can't kick it that far.

And Ledley King, whose inclusion I supported, was excellent alongside Campbell. England can take heart from this game once the disappointment subsides.

Yes, they lost but they were not carved open or destroyed.

The two centre-halves were just different class I felt.

So England have taken a punch, but they have the chance to bounce back in their next two games, and after the result is put into context - and of course if they win against Switzerland and Croatia - they will look back on the France game as containing far more positives than negatives.





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