Laurent Blanc believes France's task of beating Ukraine in their next Group D fixture may have become even harder after Andriy Shevchenko sent the country into "a state of euphoria" by scoring both in the 2-1 win against Sweden on Monday.
Les Bleus go in to Friday's contest at the Donbass Arena two points behind Oleh Blokhin's team after registering a 1-1 draw with England, and Blanc is expecting a stern test from the co-hosts and their in-form talisman. "I read an article on 'Sheva' a few days ago that said he could hardly walk anymore and his back was in pieces," Blanc said. "Well, he showed against Sweden that great players never lose it. I'm happy for him because he's somebody I appreciate a lot."
Although the two-time European champions are staying outside the centre of Donetsk, Blanc said he could feel the lift that Ukraine's victory had given to the nation. "The country is in a state of euphoria," he declared. "The people will be behind the team more than ever now. It's going to be a hard game, there's no doubt about it, but we will prepare ourselves in the same way we have planned."
There was a lingering sense of frustration in the French camp on Tuesday morning having failed to turn long periods of possession in to clear-cut chances against a resolute England the previous night. Blanc was keen to point out that his side had managed 18 attempts on goal to just three from Roy Hodgson's charges, although he did concede that many of those efforts were relatively harmless long-range strikes.
"It was frustrating for periods," the 46-year-old reflected. "We lacked a presence in front of goal sometimes. But we tried to play our style of football.
We like playing balls in to feet and exchanging quick passes. Unfortunately England defended extremely well, with two banks of four, and they denied our players any space at all."
Blanc also defended striker Karim Benzema for regularly dropping deep. "Karim drops off a lot with Real Madrid too," he explained. "When you find yourself stuck in the grip of [John] Terry and [Joleon] Lescott you have to find a way of getting free. Anyway, that's how Karim plays usually, although he's still capable of running in behind because he is athletic enough. But it wasn't an easy game for a striker."
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