By Francisco Delgado
France captain Hugo Lloris has told Goal.com that he believes that Euro 2012 has arrived at an opportune moment for Laurent Blanc’s side.
Presently on an unbeaten run stretching back 21 matches, France are poised to open their Group D campaign on Monday evening against England, with the Olympique Lyonnais goalkeeper quietly confident over his side’s chances.
“The Euros come at just the right time for France,” he explained. “We are improving step by step and we are conscious that we can achieve something good, but we have our feet on the ground and we are thinking about our debut, which is the most important match for us in recent times.”
|FRANCE PREPARE FOR ENGLAND
|Laurent Blanc's side held a training session in front of fans in Donetsk
Les Bleus have been labelled as favourites heading into the match in Donetsk, yet Lloris believes the match will be a tough affair, pinpointing their defensive style as something France must be wary of.
“England won't be an easy rival,” he stated. “With the change of coach, they have changed their system and it's normal they should play on the counter. That will give us even more problems.
“England use more of a direct style with [manager Roy] Hodgson than they did before under [Fabio] Capello. That will oblige us to make an even greater effort and we will have to ensure they don't cause us problems from dead-ball situations. That has always been one of their great weapons and we have to counteract it however we can.
“Just because England have suffered a lot of injuries and other situations doesn't mean the match will be comfortable. On the contrary, it will be very hard because the three points are worth their weight in gold and can condition the rest of the tournament.
“It's normal that people see us as favourites for this match, but in my head nothing has changed: this one is 50-50 whatever people say. And anything can happen.
“Analysing the two teams line by line, France is no way inferior to England. Actually I think we are stronger in midfield and attack, but we will have to show that on the pitch.”
Lloris, however, is pleased that England forward Wayne Rooney will miss the game because of suspension. “In football you have to say things as they are and the fact that Rooney isn't playing against us is a small advantage for France,” he commented.
Meanwhile, spearheading France’s offence will be the in-form Karim Benzema, and his former Lyon club-mate has said that Real Madrid attacker can excel in Poland and Ukraine. “Benzema is in a great moment in front of goal. He could be one of the big stars of this European Championship,” the goalkeeper said of the player who scored twice in Les Bleus’ recent 4-0 win over Estonia.
|5/1||France and England are 5/1 to draw 0-0 at Euro 2012 with bet365|
“France have a lot to play for in the Euros but our first objective is to return the confidence placed in us by our fans. And we can do that by beating the English,” he said.
“The favourite for the title? You would have to say Spain because of their record in recent years, but you cannot forget Germany and Holland. And I am not ruling out France doing something big, although that depends on what happens in the first phase of the tournament.”
Once France have faced England, they will then meet Ukraine and Sweden in Group D.