France ready for Croke Park hell

CLAIREFONTAINE - France expect a raucous welcome from the Croke Park crowd when they play Ireland in a World Cup play-off on Saturday, but they say they will not be intimidated.

"It is part of the context but it is a pleasure to play in a stadium with a heated atmosphere," midfielder Alou Diarra told reporters on Tuesday.

"I am not afraid. We have a lot of respect for this team but we do not fear them."

Defender Patrice Evra told French sports daily L'Equipe his Manchester United Irish team mate John O'Shea had promised him "hell at Croke Park."

The Croke Park stadium, originally used for Gaelic games, has been hosting football matches since 2007 and has a capacity of 82,300.

Sevilla defender Julien Escude said France would not be intimidated, urging his team mates to win the game mentally even before putting a foot on the pitch.

"The outcome of the game can hang on an exchange of looks, attitudes," he told reporters.

"We must tell ourselves that we will not lose, that nothing will happen to us because we will be fully prepared.

"We must feel that we don't fear anything. At Sevilla, for two years, we knew we would eventually win, even against Real (Madrid) or Barcelona."

After Saturday's match, the return leg will be played next Wednesday at the Stade de France, where the atmosphere is likely to be much calmer.