France defender Evra claims Rooney suspension is perfect for Les Bleus

The French left-back claims their group opponents England will be severely weakened without their talismanic frontman when the countries meet in their opening game at the Euros

France defender Patrice Evra has claimed the absence of Wayne Rooney from the England side is ideal for Les Bleus when the two countries face each other in their opening group game of Euro 2012.

The England striker is banned for the first two games of the group stage against France and Sweden after being given sent off for kicking out at an opponent in a qualifying tie.

While Evra is not guaranteed a starting role at left-back for France, with Manchester City’s Gael Clichy the current favourite, he is glad he won’t have to mark his Manchester United club-mate.

He told The Sun on Sunday: “It’s one less problem France will have to deal with as we look to make an impact in the tournament.

“Naturally, I sympathise with Rooney. It’s a massive blow for England losing him for the opening two games. But I’m not going to sit here and say I’m sorry I don’t have to mark him.

“Rooney is the type of player you want on your side, he’s not someone I’m too keen to be playing against because I know the impact he can have.

“On his day he is one of the best strikers in the world so when you are facing opponents weakened by the loss of a star player you try to take advantage.”

The French side have been rejuvenated under Laurent Blanc and have not suffered defeat in 20 games, handing them the dark horses tag for the tournament.

Evra  knows a good start is crucial if they are to progress, adding: “It’s important to start well so the game against England is crucial.

“It’s not going to be easy for either England or France but that’s not to say the expectation on either side is lessened.

“There is always pressure to perform and have a good tournament but the expectations of other people are no less than the pressure we put on ourselves.

“Failure doesn’t sit comfortably with any player. We are going into this with an open mind but we aspire to meet with success and it will be no different for England.

“Beating England would mean much more than three points to us. It will lay down a marker, it will give the team vital confidence going into the next game.

“Our priority at this stage is to ensure we reach the quarter-finals and then take it from there.

“It’s all about the usual suspects like Spain, Germany, Holland and Italy. But why not France and England?

“There is no point having a negative attitude. All you can do is play to the best of your ability and if that isn’t good enough it’s hard to be held accountable if you don’t win.

“People forget that sometimes in football your opponents are better. It’s not a case of you were worse than them, that you failed because you didn’t play well.

“And to win a major tournament there is always an element of luck involved.”

The French will be hoping for a successful tournament in order to banish the memories of the disastrous World Cup in 2010.

The United defender insists those memories are long gone. He said: “The World Cup is a distant memory. Things are completely different now.

“We have a new coach and some young players of great influence. I’m not going into this tournament feeling I or anyone else have a point to prove.

“You could say the same about England, but it is pointless dwelling on the past, you just have to move on.”

Evra revealed how surprised he was when he heard about the departure of Fabio Capello and believes England’s preparations have been significantly disrupted. He is also hoping for some international success after a poor season at club level.

The left-back remarked: “I was surprised, like many people. It didn’t come at a good time when England had performed so well under him during qualifications.

“And it’s not easy stepping in like Roy Hodgson has. They say there is no pressure but there is always pressure on England managers.

“The longer you go on without winning a major tournament the harder it becomes but with England there always seems to be unrealistic expectations.

“Sometimes it’s hard for the players to cope with that. But Hodgson is a very good coach with vast experience so I’m sure England will give a good account of themselves.

“Of course the way the campaign ended left a very bad taste in my mouth.

“It was not a good campaign for Manchester United. It’s unusual to finish a campaign at Manchester United without a trophy.

“So perhaps it will give me an extra incentive to do well with France. I believe if we play to our strengths and stay focused we might surprise a few people.

“I’m not of a mind to make promises I can’t keep but we are certainly going into this with quiet optimism.”


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