CARDIFF, United Kingdom May 24 – France’s World Cup winner Marcel Desailly is worried about security for Euro 2016 after the deadly attacks on Paris last November.
“Of course, there is a little fear,” the 1998 World Cup winner and Euro 2000 champion told AFP.
“Because of the level of security, we hope nothing will happen, but it’s a very difficult thing to be able to check everyone.
“It’s not just the stadiums, it can happen anywhere in any city.”
His comments came amid a new scare over security breaches at the Stade de France in Paris during the French Cup final on Saturday.
The stadium, which will host the opening match on June 10 plus the July 10 final, was targeted by suicide bombers during the November 13 attacks that left 130 dead.
Desailly, a key member of the side that won the 1998 World Cup final in the stadium, said he hopes France can win the European championships on home soil to lift the whole country.
“If France win the title, it will boost more than just football, it will boost the economy, it will boost the hope,” said the 47-year-old.
“People are quite sad, life is difficult and football will bring some smiles to the faces, like we did in 2000 and 1998.”
The former Chelsea and AC Milan defender hopes Didier Deschamps’ squad can win a third European crown after their 1984 and 2000 triumphs.
– ‘A big blow’ –
Desailly said the absence of experienced striker Karim Benzema could hurt France, but they have the talent to cope.
Benzema was suspended by France in December because of his alleged role in an attempt to blackmail ‘Les Bleus’ teammate Mathieu Valbuena over a sex-tape.
Desailly said it is now up to Olivier Giroud and Andre-Pierre Gignac to support Atletico Madrid’s in-form forward Antoine Griezmann.
“Yes, it hurts France, because he (Benzema) is a very good player, he’s a point of reference at the front of the attack for France, so it’s a big blow,” said Desailly.
“Didier will still play a 4-3-3, but he just has to hope a player like Griezmann will show up well to allow France to win the games.”
Desailly compared the French squad to where world champions Germany were six years ago before beginning their rise to the 2014 World Cup crown.
“Didier Deschamps has a very, very good generation of players, you can see the talent is there,” said Desailly.
“We are just missing a little bit of experience at the high level, but that will come.
“The strength is there, from (goalkeeper Hugo) Lloris to (midfielder Paul) Pogba to (defender Rafael) Varane to Griezmann, they are the spine of the team, so we hope it will work.
“They are trying to build up a team similar to how Germany was in 2010, which was the start of a new generation.”
Desailly said Group A “should be easy” for France, who face Switzerland, Romania and Albania, but the hosts have to cope with national expectations.
“It’s huge pressure, an amazing pressure. You can’t really quantify it,” said Desailly, who was sent off in the 3-0 win over Brazil in the 1998 World Cup final.
“The players have to be united and keep the pressure internally to try to use it positively and create a good performance.
“If they don’t do that, they will have the fear and be too scared to perform.”
– ‘A real weapon’ –
Desailly is tipping Bayern Munich teenager Kingsley Coman, 19, to shine.
“I’m not sure he will start all of the games, but when he has the opportunity, he has to show he’s maybe the man for the moment, whether on the left or right wing.
“In the friendly against Russia, he showed he is a real weapon for Didier Deschamps.”
While tipping France to win Euro 2016, Desailly said Belgium and England could also go far and Germany remain strong.
“If you want a surprise, Belgium have built up some experience from the last World Cup, they have individual players who are amazing,” he said.
“England, they have no fear and maybe this generation can make it, like Greece did in 2004.
“Everyone will tell you Germany has the weight and the experience behind them, they don’t really have a striker, but they have a great experience in their team.”