England coach Roy Hodgson said his players are confident that they can beat revitalised France in their opening Euro 2012 match on Monday.
Speaking in Krakow, Hodgson told journalists he had arrived at the pinnacle of his career and was “up for the challenge”. He said that, after 36 years in which he has coached around the world, he was preparing for what could be "the most terrific three weeks - or the most torrid - of my career".
Laurent Blanc’s France are on a 21-game unbeaten run, but Hodgson insisted England were “not cowed” by the prospect of taking them on in Donetsk.
“The players think we can beat France. There's no question about that,” he said. “There's no fear. There's healthy respect for the team - as they deserve to have. In any league, 21 matches unbeaten is an achievement. But I don't get the feeling the players are cowed by the task.”
He said he would not talk about targets for the tournament because "so many targets are set for you, why bother to set them yourself?"
“I'm not prepared to say what my goal is," the coach said. "People expect us to do well. People would still be very disappointed if we don't get through the group stages, even if expectations are lower. If we do get through the group stages and get knocked out in the quarter-finals, they'll still be disappointed.”
Hodgson admitted he was “not always going to be happy at the level of scrutiny of all my decisions ... but I am a football man and football has been my life. Only a naive person would think that it is all going to be plain sailing.”
He said a failure to get the performances he expected from England’s players would make the tournament "torrid", explaining: “If they have conned me into thinking I am working with a good bunch here - that this is a bunch who won't let me or the team or the nation down - then suddenly, in three [group] games they do that, then this would be a painful blow.
“It would be much more painful than if I have to read that I got the team wrong, or I should have picked this player or done that.”
Hodgson said he was “a pragmatic coach in the sense that I like to win and I know I can't win by asking my forwards to score three of four goals.”
"If you are lucky enough to work with a team that can defend well, then quite often you will be called a cautious coach, I suppose," he added. “But the important thing is to win matches, and we all know you've got to be one hell of a team at this top level.”