Euro 2012: France claim to be outsiders as they prepare to face up to England challenge
LAURENT Blanc believes France are Euro 2012 outsiders despite a 21-game unbeaten run and confidence being sky high ahead of tonight's opening encounter with England.
Head coach Blanc has masterminded the lengthy run without defeat stretching back nearly two years in the aftermath of the squad unrest which blighted their 2010 World Cup campaign.
But he is adamant France are no longer a major power and dismisses the theory they are favourites to qualify from a group which also contains Sweden and co-hosts Ukraine.
He said: "Essentially we've stored up a lot of confidence recently. The side really needed some over the recent friendly games but they've also been important in terms of individuals.
"Certain players have gained in confidence, and that's great for the side and the squad.
"But the French team don't have the same ambitions as Spain or Germany at the start of these European Championships.
"France, in terms of their results over the last few years, have not allowed us to retain our place in European or World football.
"People say I often bring this up, but I don't do that because I like to. It's the reality. People say we're favourites in the group, but I don't agree with that.
"We were in the fourth pot in the draw, and that means something. It's an open group. France, England, Ukraine and Sweden can all legitimately believe they can get into the latter stages."
Blanc is keen to play down the significance of the meeting with England head coach Roy Hodgson's team in Donetsk.
He said: "In terms of the importance of games, everyone says the first game is important.
"We know it's important for both these sides, but it won't be decisive.
"Of course it's better to manage it well, but the European Championships won't end for a team after this match. The other two matches will be even more important."
Blanc expects Hodgson to try to catch France out on the counter-attack.
The former Manchester United defender said: "We've watched their last two friendly games (against Norway and Belgium). We didn't learn they were very committed, we knew that.
"But if they play in the same way they'll drop back, have a bank of four with some quick players, and try and hit us on the break.
"We need to be wary of that, and make sure we're not caught off guard. If there's space in behind, they'll counter-attack."