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England hold France, Ukraine snub

England held a dominant France team to a 1-1 draw in an absorbing Euro 2012 Group D match between the old rivals against a backdrop of empty seats and a political snub for co-hosts Ukraine on Monday.

The French looked far more dangerous, creating 19 chances to a paltry three by England, but had to come from behind after Samir Nasri struck just before halftime to cancel out Joleon Lescott's header.

There were a number of gaps in the crowd in Donetsk, but that was not the only embarrassment for Ukraine, whose stuttering preparations for the tournament had UEFA's nerves on edge.

Sweden, sharply critical of the prosecution and jailing of former Ukraine prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, said it was not sending any government ministers to their team's Group D match against the hosts at Kiev's Olympic stadium (2:45 p.m. EDT).

England and France, Sweden's European Union allies, also played without any government officials present in a snub to President Viktor Yanukovich. All three countries were represented by ambassadors.

England, playing their first competitive match under manager Roy Hodgson, made the breakthrough after 30 minutes when Lescott scored his first goal for his country, powerfully heading home a whipped Steven Gerrard free kick.

The lead only lasted nine minutes, however, when Lescott's Manchester City team mate Nasri fired France's equalizer past another club colleague in England goalkeeper Joe Hart.

"We would have been delighted with a win," said England captain Gerrard. "France showed they have fantastic players, but we are satisfied with the performance. it. We now need four points from our next two games."

RUSSIAN MARCH

In neighboring Poland, the other tournament co-hosts, authorities were on the alert for Tuesday's Group A match in Warsaw between co-hosts Poland and Russia.

About 5,000 Russian fans plan to march to the stadium and their representatives told Warsaw officials they wanted only to celebrate "the festival of football", the director of Warsaw's security and crisis unit said.

"I've asked them for peaceful behavior, not to provoke anyone in the streets," Ewa Gawor told a news conference. "We want this festival to be peaceful. We have had such assurances, nevertheless we will be watchful."

European soccer's governing body UEFA has told Warsaw to expect about 20,000 Russian fans in the city, spread across the stadium and the fan zone.

The Russian FA has since appealed to its fans to behave.

The two neighbors have always had complicated relations strained by historical animosity and the Soviet domination after World War II.

A plane crash that killed Poland's president and 95 others in Russia two years ago first brought the nations together, only to push them apart due to disputes over who was responsible.

Beyond isolated incidents involving rival supporters, the tournament has been mainly calm off the pitch.

Poland's interior minister said that out of 905,000 fans attending games at stadiums or in the fan zones, only 72 were arrested, including 41 local fans and 10 Russians.

Polish organizers were forced to defend the state of the pitch in Gdansk where reigning European champions Spain were held 1-1 by a surprisingly lively Italy on Sunday.

Spanish coach Vicente del Bosque and midfielder Andres Iniesta said the pitch was too dry, a complaint rejected as "nonsense" by Polish FA chief Grzegorz Lato.

He said the pitch could only have been watered with the agreement of both teams but Italy rejected the suggestion.

"They know that the pitch being slower - because on a watered pitch the ball slides a lot and will move a lot faster - is the better tactical option for Italy," Lato said.

(Reporting By Brian Homewood; Editing by Ed Osmond)