On Monday evening in France, at 18:00, Les Bleus open their Euro2012 campaign against England in Donetsk. Marseille coach Didier Deschamps shares his thoughts with the OM squad and Group D...
A winner of Euro 2000 with Les Bleus, the Marseille coach will be an attentive observer as his friend Laurent Blanc coaches a France side that boasts three OM players, in Alou Diarra, Mathieu Valbuena and Steve Mandanda.
With co-hosts Ukraine, Sweden and England in their group, Les Tricolores won't have it all their own way, especially as they start their campaign against potentially their strongest group rival in England. "There's no starting slow and getting better and better like you do in the World Cup because in the Euro, you have to hit the ground running against Europe's best teams. There's also less time to recover between matches. The first match is very important: if you win, you set yourself on your way," said Deschamps.
Like Les Bleus, but perhaps even harder hit, England are without a number of last-minute injury absentees (Cahill, Lampard, Barry) to which you can add the suspension of Wayne Rooney for the first two games. "Physical freshness can be the difference, but the big players in the big clubs have already played as many as 50 games in the season. The bodies are being pushed to the limit. The preparation has been short, they need to breathe a little because being fresh is very important. From a physical point of view, the impact and the busy calendar is very hard to cope with. You get injuries, often a lot of them."
Unbeaten in 21 matches, France has the added task of erasing the memory of a disastrous World Cup in 2010 in South Africa. After three wins in as many warm-up matches, Les Bleus are counting on the in-form Benzema, Ribery, Nasri, Malouda and looking to go as far as possible. "If France don't have the potential to win the Euros, you mustn't forget how far this team has already come. Individual talent is important, especially in attack - but the key is to get it to work in the team. It's not always easy. Perhaps they lack a little experience because a number of the players will be appearing in their first international tournament. But this will also serve as experience for two years time. I have total confidence in Laurent Blanc who is a competitor and wants to go as far as possible."