There was a clear sense of relief on the Donbass Arena pitch when the final whistle blew. Neither France nor England had managed to find a winning goal, yet the players seemed pleased to have got through the Group D contest in such stifling conditions.
It was not just the soaring temperatures that had made life difficult – humidity levels were also uncomfortably high. "Even the slightest effort brought about a lot of tiredness," France defender Mathieu Debuchy told UEFA.com.
Not that the marauding LOSC Lille Métropole right-back strayed from his usual habits. Debuchy is renowned for his fierce determination, his surging runs up the flank and his supreme fitness. On Monday, despite the searing heat, he was typically dynamic, defending with vigour and combining neatly with Samir Nasri on the many occasions he burst upfield.
Both coaches rang the changes in the latter stages – the likes of Yohan Cabaye and Scott Parker notably making way having run themselves in to the ground – yet Debuchy never showed any signs of flagging. "My legs feel OK," he said the next day. "We've got everything we need to recover from the matches, so, really, it's fine."
It is not certain every player was feeling quite as fresh as Debuchy. The 26-year-old never seems to run out of energy – despite the fact he is preparing to appear in his 50th game of the season, against Ukraine, on Friday – and he will not be using the climate as an excuse should France fall short. "It's really hot," he said. "At pitch level, the air doesn't circulate, so it's not easy. But we're getting used to it. We train in these conditions and we're adapting well."
The sight of Debuchy sprinting forward is familiar to Ligue 1 followers – he has already notched up 218 top-flight appearances since his Lille debut in January 2004. Yet the full-back remains relatively new to international football; he was handed his first cap in November and admitted to feeling nerves before his tournament bow this week. "These games are different," Debuchy explained. "You sense the stakes are very high. At the start I felt a bit of pressure, but as soon the whistle went I was fine."
The surprise inclusion of teenager Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on England's left side might have thrown Debuchy, but the full-back was well prepared. "I didn't think [Oxlade-Chamberlain] would start," Debuchy said, "but I knew him a bit already because I watch the Premier League. Yohan Cabaye talked to me about him, too. He's a very good player. I also had to worry about Ashley Cole, who likes to attack, but overall I was quite satisfied with my performance."
France coach Laurent Blanc will also be delighted with the way Debuchy and Nasri combined. Until recently, Loïc Rémy and Bacary Sagna were expected to be first-choice picks on the right wing, but with both players sustaining injuries, Blanc has had to find a new partnership. The early signs are encouraging. "Samir and I talk to each other a lot," Debuchy said. "I know how Samir likes to play and we're striking up a good understanding."
The duo will almost certainly have another chance to show off their rapport against Ukraine. This time, however, rather than worrying about an 18-year-old novice, Debuchy will have a 35-year-old former Ballon d'Or winner in his sights. "[Andriy] Shevchenko is a great striker," he said. "We'll have to mark him really closely because he can turn even the slightest opening into a goal. It's going to be hard because the fans will be 100% behind them. We'll need to be on the top of our game." Given his current form and physical condition, that should not be a big problem for Debuchy.
©UEFA.com 1998-2017. All rights reserved.