Blanc: France will not focus solely on Shevchenko

The 46-year-old coach has warned that there is more to Ukraine than the veteran attacker, and stated that playing at home is not necessarily an advantage
 James Goldman
 In Donetsk
France manager Laurent Blanc has warned his side they must not fall into the trap of believing Ukraine are a one-man team, but admitted his charges must pay special attention to their veteran striker Andriy Shevchenko.

The former AC Milan star illuminated the tournament on Monday with two goals that helped his side come from behind to secure and emotional victory over Sweden in Kiev.

Now 35, Shevchenko may have lost most of the trademark pace that marked him out as one of the deadliest forwards of his generation, but age appears not to have dulled his predatory instincts.

Blanc, who locked horns with Shevchenko on several occasions during his own illustrious career, believes the man who once cost Chelsea £32m could once again rise to the occasion in Donetsk on Monday, but acknowledged there is more to Oleg Blokhin’s side than their talismanic goal getter.

Sian Welby presents our latest show, as Ash Sharma previews tonight's Group C matches

He said: “Sheva is someone I know well. I was lucky enough to play against him and sometimes I wasn’t happy because he was very difficult to mark.

“He no longer has the pace of 20-year-old but he is so clever with the runs he makes and he showed that in first game. He demonstated how he can still be effective.

“It’s up to us to be aware of his threat but Ukraine is a whole side and we must not focus just on Shevchenko. We know he likes to get on the opposite shoulder of the defender and is always in the right place at the right time.

“Great players show up at the big tournament and he’s doing that even at his age. Our players need to be close to him and not as they were for the goal England scored against us.”

Blanc hinted that midfield enforcer Yann M’Vila would be ready to return to the starting line-up, potentially at the expense of Florent Malouda in a three-man midfield that would also contain Alou Diarra and Yohan Cabaye.

M’Vila, a primary summer transfer target of Arsenal’s, has not featured for country since he sprained his ankle in the friendly against Serbia last month, but Blanc allayed any fears the Rennes star might be off the pace should he opt to recall him to the side.

He said: “I have no concern over playing M’Vila. He is important to our style of play, he had a very long season but  the time out he’s had may mean he’s fresher. All these factors come into play and we need to work out what state he’s in if he’s ready to play.”

The Frenchman also insisted his side must improve upon their last showing, adding: "If we repeat our performance from the first 30 minutes [versus England] against a superb team, the match will be over."