Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny believes France have been dealt “the worst possible draw” for Euro 2012, pointing to the opening clash against England as potentially decisive.
Koscielny is tipped to add to his one international cap during the tournament following injuries to fellow France defenders Younes Kaboul and Bacary Sagna, while highly-rated Montpellier centre-back Mapou Yanga Mbiwa was dropped by manager Laurent Blanc earlier this week.
While the prospect of representing France at the European Championship in Poland and the Ukraine is an exciting one for Koscielny, he remains wary of the task ahead of Les Bleus.
“Our first match is like a final for us,” Koscielny told the Daily Mirror. “To play against England is the worst possible draw but it will be an enormous chance for us to progress if we win.
“We can’t afford to lose. Normally you might expect France and England to qualify for the second phase but football never works like that. We know this is like a final because defeat would be a disaster. Our first objective is to get out of the group and to lose the first game would make it very difficult.”
If called upon to face England at Donbass Arena in Donetsk on June 11, Koscielny will be required to mark Andy Carroll. The Liverpool striker is likely to spearhead the Three Lions’ attack in the absence of the suspended Wayne Rooney, and Koscielny believes that may tip the result in France’s favour.
“The absence of Rooney is a joy to us,” said Koscielny. “He is a brilliant player, such a talent. But England have quality. It will be strange to play against Theo [Walcott] and Alex [Oxlade-Chamberlain]. But Arsenal is one thing, France is another.
“We’ve had a lot of jokes about playing against each other from being on the pitch together and in training at Arsenal. But while we laughed and joked, when the game comes it will be very serious and we must win the game. We all know that.
"Theo is such a threat, such a dangerous player. His pace makes him very difficult to defend against and Alex is such a talented young player with great belief."© ESPN