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Over-cautious France left waiting for a victory
KIEV (Reuters) - France's cautious approach against England in their opening Group D game on Monday ruined their chances of securing a first win in a major championship since 2006.
Les Bleus, who failed to win a game at the 2010 World Cup or Euro 2008, had to settle for a share of the points in a 1-1 draw in Donetsk after midfielder Samir Nasri cancelled out Joleon Lescott's opener for England.
Laurent Blanc's team, however, enjoyed a lot of possession and managed 15 shots on target to just one for England.
"We are disappointed not to have won it but glad not to have lost. And we didn't deserve to lose," Blanc said.
But Blanc, a world and European champion, regretted how long it took his team to get going.
"I thought we were timid at the start and I don't know why. England didn't dominate but they had opportunities," he said.
After playing quick, one-touch football in their warm-up games, France looked short of ideas against England coach Roy Hodgson's defensive curtain.
Only Nasri, who moved into a zone between the defensive lines, looked dangerous while Franck Ribery seemed to be stuck on the left flank and Karim Benzema was forced to play deeper to collect the ball.
"We don't want to repeat that experience of starting slowly but perhaps it was something we needed to get over. I hope we will be ready from the first minute in the next game," said Blanc.
France had better be ready since they now face Ukraine in Donetsk on Friday and the co-hosts are brimming with confidence after Andriy Shevchenko scored twice to lead them to an unexpected 2-1 win against Sweden in Kiev on Monday.
Midfielder Yohan Cabaye hoped France would act instead of reacting this time.
"We took our time to really start playing and that's a pity. We only found our rhythm after conceding a goal, but afterwards we showed our style," he said.
"We had the ball and we love to have the ball, and so does the coach. We will need to do this in our next match, which will not be easy at all."
According to keeper Hugo Lloris, France need to be sharper up front.
"We failed to create enough decisive chances. We did not make it tonight, the English defended very deep, so it was difficult for us to find space.
"We won a good point, and we will have to take the three points during our next two matches," he said.
England seemed to fade midway through the second half but Blanc waited until the 84th minute before sending on Hatem Ben Arfa and Marvin Martin.
"With a little bit more accuracy towards the end, we could have won this game," said midfielder Alou Diarra.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris)
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