France's coach, Laurent Blanc, has begun the psychological tussle with England ahead of their critical Euro 2012 opener, claiming Fabio Capello wanted to avoid his side at all costs.
England will kick off their Euro 2012 campaign on 11 June with a Group D meeting with their old adversaries France in Donetsk.
Blanc immediately rated Capello's side clear favourites to progress from Group D ahead of Sweden and hosts Ukraine after Friday's draw in Kiev but revealed the Italian was desperate to avoid a clash with France.
The French have not lost to England in five meetings stretching back 14 years to 1997. England were stunned by an injury-time double from Zinedine Zidane in a 2-1 win at Euro 2004.
"Before the draw Fabio Capello said to me, 'I hope we don't get drawn out with France'," said Blanc. "At the end of the draw he tapped me on the shoulder and said, 'I shouldn't have said that'.
He added: "This game is always extra special. With them it's always a spicy encounter. England are the favourites. After that we have three teams all of a similar level."
England will prepare for the tournament by spending up to six days in Marbella, Spain, in a training camp on the Costa del Sol from 21 May. Capello admitted after the last World Cup that his players needed a longer break after the end of the domestic season. But he was wary of becoming too laid-back, saying: "The relaxing thing is when you win. I saw what happened [to the rugby players] in New Zealand – a lot of relaxing."Reuse content