Didier Deschamps admits France has been given advantage over Ireland

Extra days off between end of group has allowed host nation’s players to rest up

France coach Didier Deschamps says Thierry Henry's infamous handball in a qualification playoff game for the 2010 World Cup against Ireland is no longer an issue. France captain Hugo Lloris agrees. Video: Reuters

 

French coach Didier Deschamps had admitted that the host nation has been given an advantage going into Sunday’s European Championship second round game because of the additional time that the players have had to rest.

The 47-year-old, who is expected to start the same starting line-up that he selected for the opening game, against Romania, expressed light-hearted exasperation that it was a local reporter who asked him the question at his pre-match press conference but went on to acknowledge that his side, having had a week to recover from their last group game, were better off because of the way the draw was structured.

“It’s not a disadvantage,” he said. “Of course I’d prefer to have three more days than three fewer days. It goes without saying that when you have a championship with 24 teams we cannot all play at the same time but, sure, I’d prefer to be on our side of these things.”

Deschamps said that, based on what he has seen so far of them in action, he expects a tough game against Ireland but he dismissed the idea, again raised by the French press, that the thought of revenge will add to the determination of Martin O’Neill’s players.

“This means almost nothing to me and I certainly haven’t mentioned to my players,” he said. “I don’t know whether their coach has but I doubt it. There’s no revenge in football. You can’t change what has happened. It’s part of history. What you can change is what happens tomorrow and then, on Monday, that will be part of history too

“But it will be difficult. The Republic of Ireland show great solidarity in their game; a willingness to work for each other.

“We often talk about this great fighting spirit. They don’t think twice . . . they go all the way. It’s almost a genetic quality they have. They are ready to go in to battle and they are ready to fight for each other. That’s why we know we are going to have a tricky encounter.

“They’ve got a lot of heart and they work very hard but it’s not just that. There are some good footballers in the team; they play in the Premier League and they are used to playing in big games.

“They are able to play the ball on the deck even though they do tend to play more direct because they have strikers who are suited to that game and allow other players to take the second ball. But they have players who are good footballers: Whelan, Hendrick, Hoolahan if he plays, Brady, McCarthy and Shane Long. these are all players who play regularly in the Premier League.

France, he says, however, are ready now that they have reached the business end of the tournament.

“At the end of the match you are either through or you are out,” he says. “It does make things a little bit more exciting but that won’t inhibit us. Our aim is to get over this hurdle. It is like a second competition within the tournament which is about to begin but it was always our aim to be part of that.”

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