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Russian football head coach: Present-day French team unparalleled to one in 1980s

March 28, 21:37 UTC+3 SAINT-DENIS
Russia and France will meet in a friendly fixture on March 29, viewed as part of national teams’ preparations for the 2016 UEFA Euro Cup
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Leonid Slutsky

Leonid Slutsky

© EPA/MAXIM SHIPENKOV

SAINT-DENIS, March 28. /TASS/. Present-day football team of France has no such players, who can be compared to legendary Michel Platini, however, the team has one of the strongest and most powerful lines of midfielders in Europe, Russian national team’s Head Coach Leonid Slutsky said.

Russia and France will meet in a friendly fixture on March 29, viewed as part of national teams’ preparations for the 2016 UEFA Euro Cup. The match will be held at the 80,000-seat Stade de France stadium in French Saint-Denis.

Slutsky used to state that, besides the teams he coached in the past, his favorite team was the French national squad of 1982-1984. Managed at that time by Head Coach Michel Hidalgo and led by striker Michel Platini, the French team finished the 1982 FIFA World Cup in the fourth place and then won the 1984 UEFA Euro Cup.

Asked by a TASS correspondent whether the current French squad had its new Platini on the roster, Slutsky said: "Indeed, I really like the French team coached by Michel Hidalgo."

"However, the present-day team and the one mentioned here are completely different," Slutsky said. "The French team in 1980s played romantic football of elegance and sophistication. Today’s [French] team plays not only the football of the highest level skills, but the football of great power. Perhaps, it is impossible to have Platini ‘in his bold exposure’ anymore."

"Footballers playing in the French midfield are undoubtedly very strong," Slutsky said. "Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi are the best ones in their positions."

The head coach of the Russian team was also asked to comment on the June 5, 1999 Russia’s away match against the French squad. On that day Russia defeated 3-2 the then-reigning World Champions France.

"Of course I remember that match," Slutsky said. "Our team showed a qualitative football and the strong team was defeated. Perhaps, it was one of the most significant victories in the history of the Russian football."

"However, our successful performance at the 2008 Euro Cup was no less significant," he said. "It is clear that we will also try to do everything we can to show qualitative game. However, guaranteeing [positive] result in the match against France is impossible for anyone in the world of football."

The 2016 UEFA Euro Cup will be held in France between June 10 and July 10 with matches to be played in 10 different locations, namely in Bordeaux, Lens, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nice, Paris, Saint-Denis, Saint-Etienne and Toulouse.

A total of 24 European national teams qualified for the Euro Cup final tournament in 2016, after the contestants’ format, which was used since 1996, was decided to be extended from 16 to 24 teams.

All of the 24 qualified national teams are playing a series of friendly matches against each other as preparations for the upcoming Euro Cup. Russia routed Lithuania 3:0 in another friendly at the Otkritie arena in Moscow on Saturday.

The Russian national team won the ticket for the championship in France almost at the very last moment.

Russia, which was in the third position of the qualifying Group G after defeat to Austria in mid-June last year, went on a winning streak in four remaining fixtures and finished the qualifiers for the major European tournament in the second place of the group earning a direct pass to the 2016 Euro Cup.

Following the defeat to Austria in mid-June 2015, the Russian national football team’s coaching staff saw a major overhaul. The previously Italian-dominated staff was dismissed along with former Head Coach Fabio Capello and Russia’s Leonid Slutsky was appointed in early August to take the helm of the team.

Slutsky managed to guide the national team to victories in all remaining qualifiers under his management starting with 1-0 victory over Sweden on September 5, 2015.

The new coach’s inaugural match against the Swedish squad followed with a crushing 7-0 victory over Liechtenstein three days later and then he took the team to victories over Moldova (2-1) on October 9 and Montenegro (2-0) on October 12.

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