France to take on England

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Coach Jacques Santini says France will not feel any added pressure when it takes on England in their Euro 2004 opener.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:04 IST
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Coach Jacques Santini says France will not feel any added pressure when it takes on England in their Euro 2004 opener. "We are the favourites, so there can not be much more pressure," Santini said ahead of the Group B clash in Lisbon later today. "Am I preoccupied by England? No. There is also pressure on them, they know what they have to do." Santini praised England's talented squad of players, but said he feels his team is peaking and very relaxed going into the potentially explosive encounter in Lisbon. "We have a lot of respect for England. They are strong in attack and capable of giving us problems, also from free-kicks. "But we have done everything possible to prepare, the team is well," Santini added. England coach Sven Goran Eriksson must find a way to beat a French team that has not conceded a goal in 1,040 minutes, or 11 straight games. "It's a big game and it's the first one so it's very important," Eriksson said. "But the most important thing for us is to go through to the quarterfinals. Of course, I want to beat France though." Injury problems Both teams are missing a first-choice center-half, although the injuries appear more damaging to England. While England's John Terry sits out with a hamstring injury, French captain Marcel Desailly is benched after failing to fully shake off a knee problem. Terry will likely be replaced by the inexperienced Ledley King, the Tottenham defender with five caps to his name. Desailly's stand-in will be Manchester United's 30-cap Mikael Silvestre. England's fragile backline must find a way to keep out both Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet - who have 53 international goals between them. "You know each selection has experienced players to ease a young player into such a game," Santini said. "Mr. Erkisson knows the quality of King if he needs him." But Desailly said a mistake could cost England dearly. "King will have a lot of experience around him, Sol Campbell, (David) Beckham, even Michael Owen will be able to help," Desailly said. "They have for sure to tell him this will be a tough game from start to finish, and the first that makes the mistake will lose the game." King looked to be preferred over Liverpool's Jamie Carragher when England had its final training session last fternoon. The 23-year-old was given the same training bib as the rest of the first choice team. "You can't give someone experience, the only way is to play them," Eriksson said. "I'm not worried about it as he seems to be very calm." Crucial game Santini "watched a video" of King's match against Portugal, in which he scored. His decision to rest Desailly was based on negating England's early attacks, which are likely to come thick and fast. "The first few minutes of the game are crucial," Santini said. "The decision is based on a couple of training sessions, looking at vivacity and speed." Thuram and Silvestre are both speedy players, a neccessity given the pace of feared England striker Michael Owen. Eriksson is expecting an exciting game. "The character of the players in both teams is to attack. It may be physical but fair. I don't think you will see stupid things out there," he said. England's captain Beckham said the players fully support Eriksson, who was criticised for a lack of tactical flexibility when England lost to Brazil in the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals. "Can we trust Sven?" Beckham said. The players definitely trust him and everyone else has to. "He is doing what he thinks is best. If that means we play a side or in a way that not many people agree with, then we have got to put that aside, move on and hopefully win the game." There will be duels from the Premier League all over Benfica's Estadio da Luz. Club teammates from Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, and Real Madrid will go head-to-head. Arsenal's Campbell and Henry - arguably the Premier League's best defender and striker this season - will try to outwit each other. "I read somewhere that Campbell loves to play against Henry," said Desailly. "I hope after the game he thinks differently." (AP)

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