Loss to England could crush French morale: Zidane

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/Z/Zinedinezidane.jpg' class='caption'> Zinedine Zidane says defeat at the hands of England on Sunday could prompt another crisis of confidence in the French ranks.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:07 IST
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Zinedine Zidane says defeat at the hands of England on Sunday could prompt another crisis of confidence in the French ranks. "We must absolutely not lose this game," Zidane told reporters today, ahead of France's opening Euro 2004 Group B match in Lisbon. "It's so important for peace of mind in such a competition." Two years ago, France lost its opening game at the World Cup to Senegal. With morale shattered, the team exited the tournament without scoring once. Zidane, who notched his 23rd international goal in a 1-0 win over Ukraine in a recent friendly, says an opening loss at Euro 2004 could crush morale in a similar way. "It is possible to recover, but it's not a good situation for the team's confidence," the Real Madrid midfielder said. "We haven't forgotten the frustration and enormous deception of the World Cup. "It's good to start a competition well and to get the confidence of the coach." Zidane is relishing the prospect of taking on the elite of England's Premier League, plus lone exile David Beckham - the only likely England starter to ply his trade abroad at Real Madrid. "It will be a very physical match, against a formidable midfield," Zidane said. "They have a lot of experience and a lot of combativity. They run a lot and are not easy to contain, very solid." Although Zidane will go up against Beckham for the first time, he feels another England player could pose more of a threat to Les Bleus. Despite both teams having their share of flair players, Zidane is not expecting a wide open, free-flowing game in Sunday's opening group B encounter. France has not conceded a goal for 11 games, a streakthat goes back almost a year, and is unbeaten in 18. "I think it will be very tight, and decided by small details," he said. "I don't think there will be a big score." Perhaps also because both teams are confident of beating Croatia and Switzerland in other group B matches, thus diminishing the need to go all out of a win. Zidane says the win over a very physical Ukraine side at Stade de France earlier this week, was the ideal preparation to take on a bustling England team. "They posed us a lot of problems, they were very strong," he said. With Manchester United's Paul Scholes, Chelsea's Frank Lampard and Liverpool's Steven Gerrard up against him, Zidane is not shying away from a potentially explosive confrontation. "I'm the playmaker. It's normal for me to be in the spotlight," he said. "I don't consider myself to be the best in the world. I just want to do well for France. In the last 2-3 weeks, I've been feeling very well." A bad sign for England, perhaps. (AP)

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