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France are focusing on the defence of their European title, determined to make amends for their poor World Cup showing two years ago.

In 2002, France were knocked out without scoring a goal, but this time around, the squad is confident of exorcising those demons.

“The whole squad was exhausted after a long and tiring season,” said playmaker Zinedine Zidane, when asked to explain France’s poor defence of their World Cup crown.

“But the worst thing was that we didn’t have time to prepare for the tournament.”

Immediately after the 20002 debacle, coach Roger Lemerre was replaced by Jacques Santini, whose priority was to protect the players. Judging by the way France cruised through their qualifying group, Santini’s approach apppears to be paying dividends.

“He (Santini) has done everything he could to protect us,” said Bayern Munich defender Willy Sagnol.

“The number of outsiders allowed in here was cut dramatically.

“All the players said it was a good thing and it has improved the atmosphere.

“When you are training at 10 in the morning and at four in the afternoon, what you need inbetween is rest.”

Reflecting on France’s revival in the last two years, Sagnol believes that the credit should go to Santini.

“Someone had to bring us back down to earth,” added Sagnol.

“New rules needed to be implemented.”

“Now we know something like that can happen, we didn’t know it before. We didn’t even consider it was possible,” Sagnol said.

France opened their World Cup campaign with a shock 1-0 defeat by Senegal. This time they start on June 13 against England.

“The opening match against Senegal did us great harm. We were confused and we were just another team,” Sagnol said.

“We don’t want to see that happen again.”

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