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Clichy: Playing Rooney-less England not an advantage for France

The forward will miss the Group D clash in Donetsk through suspension, but the Manchester City fullback feels Roy Hodgson's men remain a real threat without their star man

Gael Clichy has dismissed the suggestion that the absence of Wayne Rooney will make life any easier for France in its Euro 2012 opener against England on June 11.

The Manchester United striker is suspended for his country's opening two fixtures and the commonly-held view is that his unavailability is a major plus for Les Bleus.

"We know we’re not favourites, but we have what it takes to have a good Euros and make our fans happy" - Gael Clichy

However, Clichy does not agree with the general consensus, arguing that England have the strength in depth to cope without their star forward.

"I don’t think it makes any difference," the Manchester City full-back told Fifa.com. "People think it’s better to play them without [Wayne] Rooney, who is suspended, and in their first competitive match under their new coach [Roy Hodgson].

"But we’re talking about a very experienced team that has players like John Terry and Steven Gerrard, who could pretty much play without a coach.

"Rooney’s absence could be an advantage for us, but they have so much quality that it doesn’t really matter whether we play them at the start or at the end. Still, the first match of a tournament is crucial."

While Laurent Blanc's men are undefeated in 21 games, they are by no means the favorites to prevail in Poland and Ukraine, with many pundits predicting a repeat of the 2008 final between Spain and Germany.

Clichy, though, is quite content that France is considered outsiders for the title.

"We know we’re not favorites, but we have what it takes to have a good Euros and make our fans happy," the former Arsenal man declared. "I remember in the 1998 World Cup that people didn’t talk very much about France winning, but rather about doing well in front of their home support. The outsider tag could be an advantage.

"Arsene Wenger often used to say that it’s better to be the second or third team in the title race rather than the first, with all the pressure and tension that goes with it.

"At the moment, Germany and Spain are favorites and are given more attention than France, which could be something positive. But it also means that those teams are ahead of us. It’s up to us to make up the ground and restore France’s strength."

Les Bleus' opening fixture against England in Donetsk kicks off at 12:00 p.m. ET.

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