The tense 1-1 draw between France and England in both side's first game at Euro 2012 might have failed to produce a winner, but it did spark a bizarre mystery over the target of Samir Nasri's celebration following his equalizing goal.
Nasri, the French midfielder who plays his club soccer with English Premier League team Manchester City, put his side back in the game with a 36th-minute goal that cancelled out Joleon Lescott's opener for England.
However, despite Nasri's excellent technique in controlling the ball, then spearing home a fierce strike from outside the area, he appeared far from pleased after his goal, putting his finger to his lips repeatedly and glaring in the direction of the stands.
Nasri ended his gesticulating by yelling "ferme ta gueule," which politely translated means "shut your mouth," as his teammates attempted to celebrate with him.
The outburst appeared to be aimed in the direction of the England bench, fueling speculation that Nasri was mouthing off at Gary Neville, the former Manchester United defender who is now a television analyst and a temporary assistant to England coach Roy Hodgson.
Neville clashed with Nasri on the field several times when he was a player and has criticized his performances and attitude on British television.
Yet when a French reporter asked Nasri after the match who his anger was directed at, the response was, "You," a comment taken to mean the entire media corps. Such a fierce outburst would be odd because the French press has not been particularly critical of Nasri, especially after he helped City win the EPL title at the end of the domestic season.
In fact, it has been Nasri himself who has fanned flames of controversy by repeatedly making sneering jibes at his former EPL club Arsenal. He loves to point out that Arsenal has gone seven years without a trophy, whereas he clinched in the EPL crown in his first season at City. Those comments haven't been well-received with the London club and have cast him as a polarizing character.
Either way, his goal was welcome for France, the favorite in Group D and a team with aspirations of making a real impact in the tournament. Laurent Blanc's side dominated possession and had many more scoring chances, but struggled to capitalize.
Lescott's header from a Steven Gerrard free kick had given England early hope of an unexpected win, and until Nasri's strike France was starting to look frustrated. Nasri cut inside from an angle, made room for himself and drilled a low strike past his City teammate Joe Hart.
A point apiece suits both teams reasonably well, and each will like its chances of picking up enough points from their remaining group games against Ukraine and Sweden to secure progress to the quarterfinals.
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"I think we have to be happy with that," said France manager Blanc. "We were too timid at the start, there was a bit of pressure that got to us. And then we got better after we conceded the goal. Overall, I think it was a fair draw for both sides."
England will certainly need to show more attacking impetus if it is to make much headway in the competition, but at least managed to tick off the first part of Wayne Rooney's two-game suspension without too much damage.
The Three Lions take on Sweden in Kiev on Friday, while France matches up with co-host nation Ukraine in Donetsk.
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