The Newcastle and France midfield schemer tells FourFourTwo he's looking forward to his first international tournament, Euro 2012
How would you describe the mood in the camp going into the Euros?
It’s much better now than at the start of the campaign because it was hard to move on after the World Cup. But the manager came with a new spirit and the players have followed.
What do you make of your group?
It will be difficult because England are one of the best teams in the world, Sweden have a few very good players such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ukraine have home advantage. A good result against England will help us build confidence.
Who are the favourites?
You would have to say Spain, with players like Iniesta and Xavi. They are the best team in the world at the moment. Germany will also make a big challenge; Holland as well.
Some people say the Euros is more difficult to win than the World Cup. What do you think?
I think it is more difficult because the best European teams take part, which means there are only tough games. The World Cup is getting harder because the smaller nations are improving, but in the Euros it is tough from the start. It is more intense.
What do you think of England’s chances?
It is difficult to tell at the moment, but they have good, young players. If they mix younger and older players and the spirit is good, they can do something this summer.
What are your own ambitions heading into the tournament? It will be your first...
I just hope to play as much as possible and I hope to play well. But the main focus is on the team, and I hope we can reach the quarter-finals. I’m really looking forward to it and I hope to be on top form when the competition arrives. I am ready.
Is it an advantage for France having so many players in the Premier League when it comes to playing England?
Yes, because it means that we become familiar with another style of football rather than just the French game. It is more intense than our game or in Spain. We [Newcastle] don’t have a single easy game. Each weekend it is incredibly difficult, home or away. When I go back to France for the national team, I feel that gives me an advantage. This season has really helped me to become stronger, mentally and physically.
How much confidence did the win in Germany give France?
We have beaten Germany, England at Wembley and we won against Brazil. Even though they are only friendlies and Euro 2012 will be totally different, they are good for confidence. They show we can beat the biggest countries in the world.
Interview by Rob Stewart. From the June 2012 issue of FourFourTwo.