BLOKHIN: FRANCE AND ENGLAND ARE FAVS
Ukraine coach Oleg Blokhin insists Friday's opponents France and fellow Group D rivals England remain the favourites to qualify for the quarter-finals despite the co-host's stunning start to the competition.
Having come from behind to beat Sweden 2-1 thanks to Andriy Shevcheko's memorable double, Ukraine are two points clear at the top after the first round of matches.
France, unbeaten in 22 games, pose an entirely different prospect while Blokhin also expects Roy Hodgson's side to be their main competition for a top-two place.
"I think England and France are the favourites in the group," he said.
"If (Laurent) Blanc said France are an outsider he did not mean it. They have great young players.
"I said after Sweden we haven't achieved anything yet. My main task is to give strength to the players and make it possible that we get through the group stage.
"I will do everything to give them the energy to perform.
"In my head I have tomorrow's game but I try not to think about it because the pressure was very big after the first match."
Blokhin believes the group is too tight to expect Blanc's side to come out all guns blazing even after their 1-1 draw with England.
"The standings will not force France to play attacking football," he added.
"Even if they lose, they still have a chance to qualify. I don't think they will play particularly attacking football against us.
"The midfielders and strikers will always be a big threat though. Samir Nasri was the best player against England."
Midfielder Sergiy Nazarenko insists the players have already moved on from their opening day victory.
"We did not feel the euphoria because the supporters felt it," he said.
"We resumed training and forgot about the game. We have two games to play and understand winning one game is not enough to qualify."
Blanc hopes increased expectation on the co-hosts will play into France's hands but knows they can also draw strength from their fervent support.
"It can be an advantage to play at home but it can be a disadvantage too," he said.
"Ukraine have started very well and they have already played under a lot of pressure.
"There will be even more pressure on the second game and sometimes pressure can hinder people but sometimes they can rise to the occasion.
"We know where they are good but it's up to us to perform well.
"I heard that the Ukraine coach doesn't fear France and we don't fear them but we respect them.
"We need to stop them from playing but also impose our game."
Despite France's long unbeaten run they have set a national record of final tournament games without a win, eclipsing a sequence of seven set between 1960 and 1978.
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