Santini says homework will deliver success

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The Independent Football

The word "England'', let alone the merits or otherwise of Sven Goran Eriksson's players, has scarcely rated a mention in the France camp as the build-up to Sunday's cross-Channel "derby'' in Lisbon gathers momentum.

The word "England'', let alone the merits or otherwise of Sven Goran Eriksson's players, has scarcely rated a mention in the France camp as the build-up to Sunday's cross-Channel "derby'' in Lisbon gathers momentum.

Jacques Santini, the coach to the European champions, said yesterday that he and his staff had not discussed England with the French players since their arrival at Santo Tirso, near Porto, and would not do so until 24 hours before the game. The reason, explained the man who will become Tottenham Hotspur's manager after the finals, is that they have already done the bulk of their preparation for the opening Group B fixture.

"We did the hard tactical and technical work at Clairefontaine before we came to Portugal because it's easier to take in the information in the calm atmosphere we had there,'' Santini said. "We will all be very alert because we studied every aspect of how England play, right down to their movement and how certain people pass the ball. That left this week free for training, acclimatising and recovering from injuries.''

David Trezeguet (ankle) and Marcel Desailly (groin) come into the latter category, although Santini expected both to be fit. Whether the Chelsea veteran will make the starting line-up looks doubtful, however, with his club colleague William Gallas pencilled in at right-back and Lilian Thuram moving across into Desailly's central-defensive role.

Santini confirmed that he is not planning to make sweeping changes to the team he has used in friendly matches. "Eriksson may like ourselves have one or two different ideas and little modifications are possible with regard to the opposition but not a wholesale tactical change."

Santini has also tried to make his team's well-being a priority in an attempt to avoid the débâcle that was their 2002 World Cup campaign. Then, under different management, France were eliminated without winning a game or scoring a goal.

Roger Lemerre was subsequently sacked and Santini appointed, and he has made strenuous efforts to ensure the mistakes made by Lemerre are not repeated. Santini has formed an unofficial committee of senior players he calls the "group of leaders" which is a return to a traditional French practice.

"It does not matter whether it is about the colour of our laces or a major tactical issue, we are open to discussion," Santini said. "The team came to me one night about a little detail and we sorted the problem out. I am looking at the group stage as a block of three games. But it's true that the England game has a little more spice and will condition the rest."

Meanwhile, Santini countered criticism in the French media of the timing of his move to Spurs. "It doesn't affect my job. It is an honour to coach the national team, but if the employer [the French Football Federation] doesn't offer you a new contract, what can you do?'' Asked for an interview by Radio 5 Live, Santini politely refused, saying: "From 5 July, then I will speak English.''

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