France Euro 2012 Focus – Blanc plays down Bleus hopes

France will open their Euro 2012 campaign against rivals England on Monday night and Laurent Blanc’s side will be looking to start with a win in order to give themselves a crucial head start on the Three Lions. While tournament football can be unpredictable, both Les Bleus and their first opponents are expected to occupy the top two spots in Group D after all the fixtures are played. If this turns out to be the case, then who finished first or second in the group could turn out to be hugely significant.

The winner of the final group will face the runner-up of Group C, while the runner-up in Group D will face the winner of Group C in the quarter finals. Both France and England will be hoping to avoid favourites Spain in the first knockout round and although the current European Championship holders could only manage a draw against Italy on Sunday, they will still be expected to top their group. Therefore, A France win over Roy Hodgson’s men on Monday evening would boost their chances of finishing top of the group and avoiding the strongest team in Group C.

Of course, England will be looking to do the same thing. Hodgson is likely to set his team out to frustrate and make the most of their opportunities on the counter attack. If this tactical plan is executed to perfection, the Three Lions could snatch a 1-0 win, which would dent morale in the French camp.

But Blanc will be aware that his side do have a good chance of progressing to the latter stages of the competition. While France were humiliated in their previous two international tournaments, finishing bottom of their group on both occasions, they have been in superb form in the run up to Euro 2012. Given that pre-tournament favourites Spain could only manage a point against Italy and the Netherlands lost against Denmark, it appears as though a team like France could really take the competition by storm should the team continue to perform well together.

But Blanc, in what could be seen as a form of mind games, has played down their chances. According to the BBC, the manager said: “People say we’re favourites in the group, but I don’t agree with that. We were in the fourth pot in the draw.” He added: “We’re no longer one of the top sides in European football, and I should remind you of that.”

France will line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with the back-five likely to consist of Hugo Lloris, Mathieu Debuchy, Philippe Mexes, Adil Rami and Patrice Evra. Newcastle’s Yohan Cabaye will operate in midfield, though we cannot be 100% certain about who he will partner in the centre of the park following Yann M’Vila’s injury. Samir Nasri, Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema will also play, but Blanc may still be considering who should start on the right-hand side. England have a similar problem in the sense that Hodgson also knows his back five, but will have some decisions to make in the wide positions.

See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on England v France

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