Hugo Lloris: French defence well able to deal with Ireland

The French goalkeeper has full confidence in his back-line despite recent criticism

France’s goalkeeper Hugo Lloris during training ahead of their clash with Ireland in Euro 2016 second round. Photo: Getty Images

France’s goalkeeper Hugo Lloris during training ahead of their clash with Ireland in Euro 2016 second round. Photo: Getty Images

 

France captain Hugo Lloris has vocalised his faith in the team’s defensive unit on the eve of the host nation’s showdown against Ireland. Although France’s back four kept Switzerland and Albania scoreless in their group games, there is a belief that their defence is brittle. Lloris, who is set to pass Didier Deschamps’ as the country’s most capped captain, has said that the team’s defence can only be judged in retrospect.

“As for all of the players in the France squad we can only judged them come the end of the tournament. That said in the back line be it Laurent (Koscielny) or Bacary (Sagna) or Adil (Rami) – we do feel that they are on form physically. But we have a new competition that starts tomorrow and there is more at stake because it is a knock out and, yes, if you are going to have a good tournament you need to be able to fall back on your defence. So we will need to be ready against an Irish side who will try to counter act us and attack us in the air. We need to be solid.”

The French players began studying DVDs of the Ireland when they resumed training on Thursday morning. The prospect of penalties has been rumbling around since this tie was confirmed. Roy Keane confirmed that the Irish have been practicing penalties each day at training and Lloris admitted that the idea of Sunday’s tie being decided from spot kicks is not far-fetched.

“You must prepare for everything because anything can happen in football. When you look at the matches since the start, they have been very tight. So anything is possible but the aim is to try and win the match within 90 minutes and if not beyond that. But if that doesn’t happen we will be ready for penalties. We want to have a good rapport between us. It’s a top level fixture and we need to be up to what we showed in the group stage.”

He dismissed the assertion that this match might be construed as a revenge assignment for Thierry Henry’s notorious handball intervention when the countries last met in a football international in Paris in 2009. Lloris played that evening but the composition of both sides has changed radically since. France seems more preoccupied by the Henry incident now than the Irish but Lloris feels the Irish have more pertinent motivations at hand. Everything about this fixture – the home stadium and crowd and the soupy heat and the seven days of straight rest – is tilted towards France. They are heavily favoured to win but Lloris says that they are not approaching the game in that mindset.

“If I am honest I don’t think we are over-confident at all. We have a lot of respect for Ireland. Despite the second half against Belgium they showed a lot of good stuff against Sweden and Italy. They are where they are and I think they are very motivated but we are up for it too. “Regardless of the context in the match it is important to go through. Sure there is a lot at stake but that’s for both sides. The Republic have an added motivation to knock out the hosts but we are pretty relaxed. We have had a good week, we still have one training session and we will be ready.”

‘Battle’ was the word to which Lloris kept turning when predicting the kind of encounter which France are expecting. The opening minutes are set to revolve around a frantic struggle between the teams to impose their vision for the game: the Irish to harass and press the hosts into mistakes while the France will want to establish dominance in possession and pace from the outset.

“I use this word because we are very familiar with the British sides because they put a lot of heart into their performances. They will be committed right from the outset and we need to make sure they don’t grow in confidence too much. Then it is up to us to use the ball wall and try and set up attacks to our strengths. We still have a training session before the game so our minds will be focused and we will be ready for the battle.”

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