Russia didn’t look a threat to score, and England was on the front foot for almost every moment of Saturday’s opener in Marseille.
But only an Eric Dier free kick got behind Russia goalkeeeper Igor Akinfeev, and Joe Hart could only watch in horror as Aleksei Berezutski’s header looped over him to be buried in the goal by Denis Glushakov in a 1-1 draw.
England was so much better than Russia on the night, the latter side looking slow and uninspired. But both sides sit behind Wales and ahead of Slovakia after one day of play.
Hart struggled to interpret the result, from the BBC:
“Fair play to Russia they stayed in it. We’ve defended the corner but they’ve thrown players into the box. The player who scored had springs in his heels.
“It’s not hard to take the positives. We’re going to build on it. We’re going to have to draw on them.”
“We were unlucky not to score a second goal which would have put it behind doubt. It feels like defeat because we were preparing to celebrate a victory and we don’t have that possibility now.”
With the potential for even three teams to advance from any group, it’s vital for England to recognize that the equalizer was a distressing moment but not a crushing blow. Step one is for Hodgson to let his players know that, besides a lack of finish, it put on one of the top performances of the tournament in terms of bossing an opponent.
Now it just has to boss the ball into the net a few more times.