Evra: We must stop scaring ourselves with slow starts
Evra says 'crazy' Les Bleus could pay the price for another slow start
FRANCE v ICELAND
(Monday, 2.50am, Singtel TV Ch 142 & StarHub TV Ch 220 - Eleven EURO)
France, who have earned a reputation for leaving it late at this European Championship, would be well-advised to wake up early when they face Iceland for a place in the semi-finals on Monday morning (Singapore time), veteran defender Patrice Evra warned yesterday.
The hosts have survived some scares with sluggish starts and last-gasp wins on their way to the last eight, but veteran defender Patrice Evra said now is the time to make an impact from the start.
"We keep scaring ourselves, we're crazy," the 35-year-old left back said. "If we keep doing that, we might not go through. We need to stop reacting and start acting."
Evra, who has won plenty of silverware at club level but has never gone beyond the quarter-finals of a major tournament with France, nodded when asked whether Monday morning's tie at the Stade de France might be the most important game in his career.
"Yes, that's true," said the Juventus player, in line to win his 78th cap against Iceland.
"I can't stop there, we can't stop there. We all know what we're here for."
"Uncle" Evra, as his teammates affectionately call him, urged the France players not to underestimate Iceland, who advanced with a shock 2-1 win over England in the last 16.
"Before England played them, English journalists were asking me what it would be like (for France) to face England and I told them, 'Wait a minute, guys. You're not there yet'," he said.
"People go on about long throws and all that, but Iceland are not just that. They're a good team who can play good football and they did not get to this stage by accident.
"We have all due respect for Iceland, which does not mean we don't believe we can't beat them."
France coach Didier Deschamps, who has kept tinkering with his squad since the start of the Euros, will be forced to rejig once again against Iceland.
With centre back Adil Rami and holding midfielder N'Golo Kante suspended, Deschamps, who has been praised for shrewd tactical moves in the tournament, is looking to reshuffle his pack.
Rami may not be sorely missed after looking shaky at times, most notably when right back Bacary Sagna shouted at him during a laboured 2-1 win over Ireland in the Round of 16.
But Deschamps, who lost his most reliable central defender in Raphael Varane through injury in the lead-up to the Finals, will have to field an untested pair at the heart of his backline.
Samuel Umtiti seems to have the edge over Eliaquim Mangala and could win his first cap alongside Laurent Koscielny.
"Everybody in the group is ready to do the job, no worries," Evra said, when asked whether it would be a risk for Deschamps to go for Umtiti.
To replace Kante, who has established himself as one of France's most reliable players, Deschamps is expected to go for Yohan Cabaye.
The Crystal Palace player was the first choice in that role at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where France bowed out to eventual champions Germany in the quarter-finals.
- Wire Services.
Barca close in on Umtiti
Barcelona have agreed a £20.9m ($37.4m) move for France defender Samuel Umtiti from Lyon, the Spanish giants announced yesterday.
Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu said: "Barca have reached an agreement with Lyon to sign him, but it has to be negotiated with the player. There's an agreement for 25 million euros."
Cameroon-born Umtiti (above), 22, is currently with France's Euro 2016 squad and looks set to win his first cap in Monday morning's (Singapore time) quarter-final against Iceland after the suspension of Adil Rami.