Clairefontaine-en-Yvelines (France) (AFP) – France risk being “punished” if they keep relying on last-gasp goals to win games at Euro 2016, defender Bacary Sagna warned Friday.
The Manchester City star said that Iceland — France’s quarter-final opponents on Sunday — are the Leicester City of the European Championship and France’s status as a favourite could be a handicap.
“We are the hosts and maybe we have put extra pressure on ourselves by taking time to get into it,” Sagna told a press conference at the French team base.
“There have been a lot of matches where we have made the difference in the final minutes and one day we will be punished,” he added. Late goals saw France to group wins over Romania and Albania and they drew their last group game against Switzerland 0-0.
Coach Didier Deschamps had to read the riot act at half-time to get the French to step up the pace against the Republic of Ireland in the last 16.
“We have got to be active from the warm-up and not wait for half-time to talk to each other and get into it,” said Sagna.
The veteran defender said France needed to concentrate from the start.
“When we meet a more compact team that handles the end of matches better, it will not work,” he warned of France’s trend of scoring last-gasp winners.
Sagna hailed Iceland’s performance in slaying England to reach the quarter-finals.
– No holidays –
“They are kind of the Leicester of Euro 2016,” he said.
“They deserve to be there. They showed in the qualifying tournament that they could beat the big teams like Netherlands and the Czech Republic.
“It is a quality team and you must not underestimate them,” said Sagna.
“We are capable of being the best, but we have a status and we have to live up to it,” he added. “We want to do too well and sometimes that holds us back. We have to be ready and grab the match from the start.”
Sagna said that France have to start against Iceland like they finished against the Irish, in complete control.
While Iceland have been enjoying their newfound star status, France have been cloistered away from the press for most of the past two weeks by Deschamps.
Sagna said this had brought “serenity” to the team.
“We need to be together. The public fever in France is unimaginable and it is good for the team but it does us good as well to work together in calm.
“We can say things to each other without it being wrongly interpreted. We know that things can degenerate.”
France’s campaign at the 2010 World Cup was ruined by a player strike and scandal hit before this tournament when striker Karim Benzema was excluded over a police inquiry into a sex-tape blackmail attempt.
Sagna said he had “grown in maturity” by watching the chaotic events in the team camp in South Africa after Nicolas Anelka was sent home.
To lose in the quarter-final or semi-final would be “a failure”, he declared.
“I am not thinking about defeat today. I am not thinking about going on holiday anytime soon.”
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