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(AP) -- LONDON (SE) - Two-time European Champions France get their 2012 campaign underway when the play England in Donetsk on Monday evening.
France were superb in qualifying, winning nine in a row after defeat in their opening game against Belarus, but have struggled for form in their warm-up matches ahead of Poland and Ukraine.
"We didn't quite have the right balance against Iceland and made too many individual mistakes against Estonia," said France coach Laurent Blanc. "We were solid defensively in qualifying, but the focus hasn't been the same of late. Against Estonia, the centre-backs in particular did not give us the assurance we need.
"It would be wrong to question the players after every game. You'd end up changing the team all the time. The centre-backs didn't have much to do against Estonia. But in games like that you have to make sure the little work you have you do well and simply.
"(Franck) Ribery has shown in the last three games he is on the right track and Karim (Benzema) is continuing after a good season with Real Madrid. We shouldn't forget the other players who did well in the first game and then later made good impressions as substitutes. We have different types of attackers, and that's very useful for a coach."
France's defence is considered their weakness, but with Philippe Mexes and Adil Rami in between two experienced full-backs they are one of the stronger back-lines at the tournament. A host of options in central midfield should see a central three deployed, while Samir Nasri and Ribery will be given the licence to sparkle in behind Madrid forward Benzema.
Monday's opponents England go into their opening game being written off by their supporters, but goalkeeper Joe Hart is confident that the squad can take the success of their club seasons into the European Championships.
"We put pressure on ourselves to win," said Hart. "People are entitled to their opinions, but we'd like to think that when it comes to it, everyone's going to be behind us and hoping we do well.
"We can't hide that we've arrived here feeling good. Most of us have won something and we all play football to win. That's why we turned up for this tournament. That's why we trained and worked so hard to qualify.
"We're very good as a nation at defending," added Hart. "We've done well in the two warm-up games considering the squad that has been available. It has been one of our stronger points and anyone that does actually play will feel good. Hopefully I'll be able to bring some confidence to the back four and they will do vice versa
"Undoubtedly, we've got some great attacking players - not just the strikers. The midfield gets forward well, even the deeper midfielders like Steven Gerrard - we've seen what he can do from any kind of distance. We attack well from corners, too, so we've got goals from all over the pitch."
With Scott Parker and Gerrard instructed to sit in and protect the back four and the two wide players likely to double up on the French wingers, England will rely on a quick transition between defence and attack to bring Ashley Young into the game. Either Danny Welbeck or Andy Carroll will be tasked with holding the ball up to give the midfield time to get forward on the break.
Star forward Wayne Rooney, who has 28 goals in 74 international matches, will serve the first of his two-match suspension for a red card for his tackle on Montenegro's Miodrag Dzudovic in the final qualifier for this tournament.
The other two teams in Group D are Sweden and co-hosts Ukraine, who meet in Kiev later on Monday evening.
Updated June 9, 2012