Yohan Cabaye has emerged as a key figure for France in recent months and is poised to play a central role in Monday's Group D opener against England. The 25-year-old Newcastle United FC midfielder spoke to UEFA.com about Laurent Blanc's methods, his admiration for Steven Gerrard and Xavi Hernández, and the importance of winning the midfield battle at the Donbass Arena.
On Blanc's influence
Laurent Blanc has had a huge impact. He gives us a lot of advice, which we respect and try to apply immediately on the pitch. He transmits his calmness to the team. He also had a great playing career. Don't forget, we're under some pressure because we have 14 players who haven't played in an international competition before. So it's nice to listen to someone who has experience at this high level – especially the coach, because he played in some very important games. His advice and the way he manages this event can help us a lot.
On competing with England's midfield
It will be important to start well and to be physically ready. England have quality players in midfield like Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker, who will fight for every ball. We need to get on top and be careful in possession. Under Roy Hodgson, England are well organised, playing with two blocks of four and preying on the slightest error. We saw that when they scored on the counterattack against Belgium. We need to control and move the ball together to create spaces, and then recover quickly if we lose possession.
On his first meeting with Gerrard
The first time I faced Gerrard it didn't go well. When he came off the bench [in Liverpool FC's game against Newcastle last December] the fans celebrated as though Liverpool had scored. They were so happy. They knew he could change the game, and he did, scoring the third goal. If I could take something from his game it would be his wonderful long pass. It's a delight to watch. Although he missed part of the season through injury, he remains a great player and playing against him is very special for me.
On trying to emulate Xavi
I'd like to have his vision. He always seems to be a step ahead of everyone else. His technique is also superb. Xavi has this unique ability to play passes from complicated angles. I always watch him when he plays. I understand Laurent Blanc when he says that we lack a player like Xavi. After all, he is not completely wrong. We have a young team. The coach wants us to match his own expectations. He wants us to work and to try to become like Xavi. It's important for me to accept his comments and to work hard to get better.
On similarities with Lille
The 4-3-3 we are playing reminds of the system we used at [LOSC] Lille [Métropole]. The mentality of the coaches [Blanc and Rudi Garcia] is the same. They always want us to have the ball, to move in to space, to play quick passes along the ground. Also, I'm lucky to have Mathieu Debuchy on the right and Adil Rami at centre-back. We know each other very well having played together at Lille. This is an advantage for me.
On keeping expectations in check
I don't think Europe should fear France right now. We just want to keep working and we want to remain in the role of outsiders, which suits us fine and allows us to work without too much pressure. It's important for us to be able to work calmly, in the shadows of Spain, Germany and the Netherlands. It's nice to prepare for a competition without being favourites.
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