Koscielny: To play against England is the worst possible draw

France defender insists Euro 2012 Group D opener will be like a cup final for Les Bleus, while he is also looking forward to locking horns with his Arsenal team-mates
France defender Laurent Koscielny has revealed that facing England in their Euro 2012 Group D opener on June 11 is ‘the worst possible draw’.

The Arsenal centre-half, who holds just one cap for Les Bleus, has been thrown into contention to start against the Three Lions after a defensive crisis for Laurent Blanc and insists that his France team-mates see England as their most difficult opponents.
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“Our first match is like a final for us,” Koscielny told the Mirror.

“To play against England is the worst possible draw but it will be an enormous chance for us to progress if we win.

“We can’t afford to lose. Normally you might expect France and England to qualify for the second phase but football never works like that,” he added.

“We know this is like a final because defeat would be a disaster. Our first objective is to get out of the group and to lose the first game would make it very difficult.”

France bravely fought back from 2-0 down against Iceland on Sunday, but thanks to goals from Mathieu Debuchy, and a late salvo from Franck Ribery and Adil Rami, Blanc’s side managed to spare their blushes.

England boss Roy Hodgson has been hit with similar injury woes in midfield, with the absence of Gareth Barry and possibly Frank Lampard and he will also be without suspended Wayne Rooney for the first two fixtures.

Andy Carroll was handed the number nine jersey and looks set to deputise up front, while Koscielny’s Arsenal team-mates Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are also pushing for a start.

“The absence of Rooney is a joy to us,” said the 26-year-old.

“He is a brilliant player, such a talent. But England have quality. It will be strange to play against Theo [Walcott] and Alex [Oxlade-Chamberlain]. But Arsenal is one thing, France is another.

“We’ve had a lot of jokes about playing against each other from being on the pitch together and in training at Arsenal. But while we laughed and joked, when the game comes it will be very serious and we must win the game. We all know that,” he said.

“Theo is such a threat, such a dangerous player. His pace makes him very difficult to defend against and Alex is such a talented young player with great belief."