Blanc not happy with the French Defence

Karim Benzema en équipe de France

Karim Benzema

Laurent Blanc has told his France defenders they must improve, despite seeing his side ease to a 4-0 victory over Estonia in their final warm-up game on Tuesday night.

“I’m not going to beat around the bush. Our defence was not good enough,” Blanc said. “It was an easy game, very easy … I said to them: ‘This is not your day – the team is dominating out there and yet we’re getting ourselves in trouble.’

“You have to understand that it wasn’t the opposition that was causing us problems. We have to have a long hard think about what happened out there.

“The most important thing, whether you’re playing up front, in midfield or in defence, is to play simple. We didn’t do that in the first half and we found ourselves in trouble. They need to improve, and I’m talking about all four defenders.”

France were due to fly out to Ukraine on Wednesday before opening their European Championship campaign against England on Monday.

France’s run of form since Blanc took over at the start of the qualification campaign for Poland and Ukraine has many tipping them as dark horses for the title.

But the Bayern Munich midfielder Franck Ribéry – who has scored in his past three internationals – is refusing to look any further than his side’s Group D programme, which also includes matches against Sweden and the co-hosts Ukraine.

“We all want to go as far as possible in the Euros, but the aim is to get past the group stage,” he said. “We mustn’t rush into this game against England. We’ve still got a few days. First and foremost, we want to get to Ukraine and settle into our hotel, start training and preparing.”

Asked about his productive partnership with the Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema, Ribéry said: “It’s very good with Karim. We can find each other with our eyes closed. What’s more, we get along really well away from football in our everyday life.

“When we play like that, it’s great. It’s just carrying on from my form with my club this season. I would have liked my relationship with the France team to have always been this good. For me to score three goals in three games is just incredible.”

France’s victory on Tuesday followed a 2-0 win over Serbia and a 3-2 victory over Iceland in France’s first two warmup games, and Benzema said: “It’s important to win, but also to play well. We’re looking good after three very good matches. We’re ready for the Euros.”

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“Zlatan- one of the best property in football”- Hodgson

English: Roy Hodgson as a head coach of Fulham...

English: Roy Hodgson

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Roy Hodgson has billed Zlatan Ibrahimovic as “one of Europe`s best strikers in Europe” ahead of England`s Group D clash with Sweden at Euro 2012.

The Three Lions open their tournament campaign against France next Monday before facing Sweden on June 15 and finally Ukraine in Donetsk on June 19.

England last recorded a win against Sweden in 1968 and Hodgson admits Erik Hamren`s men will be a tough opponent in his side`s second group fixture.
“I think he, with his irrational play or his ability to play irrationally, being able to make things happen out of nothing, combined with their (Sweden`s) excellent organisation, work rate and discipline, that`s why they are in this European Championship.””Their [Sweden`s] major weapon is Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is one of the best strikers in Europe. As you can see from his track record – Inter, Milan, Barcelona, Juventus and Ajax – it`s not a bad list of clubs to have on your CV at the age of 30,” Hodgson told William Hill.

Hodgson is also wary of facing Ukraine and insists tournament hosts can hold an advantage with the larger portion of crowd support during matches.

“We know they are going to be a tough nut to crack,” he said. “But it wasn`t an easy game in Detroit playing in front with all these passionate American fans with a few valiant Swiss trying to hold their end up, it`s not easy. “In particular, all hosts, or co-hosts are, I remember my first game with Switzerland in 1994 [World Cup] was against the USA. And that was before the USA were as highly rated as they are today.

“It`ll be the same case in Donestsk when we play against Ukraine. It`ll be a very passionate atmosphere, but sometimes those atmospheres can push teams to heights they wouldn`t normally achieve.”