(Reuters) - France will not crumble under the weight of expectations as the host nation of the Euro 2016 tournament and will instead take advantage of the atmosphere generated by the home support, former captain Zinedine Zidane told a news conference.
Didier Deschamps’ charges are the bookmakers’ favorites to lift the European Championship trophy this year and will begin their quest for their first taste of continental success since 2000 against Romania at Stade de France on Friday.
Zidane, who played a pivotal role in France’s World Cup triumph on home soil in 1998, also backed the team to reach the latter stages of the 24-team tournament.
“This team is a very good team, so I expect them to do well in competition. I hope they win, but even if they do not win, they have to do well in competition,” Zidane, currently manager of Spanish side Real Madrid, told reporters while on a trip to Mumbai in India.
“I faced the exact same experience in 1998. The fact of having the cup in Paris and in France is a great support for the French team, being in their own country with all the fans, the supporters and the good energy.”
After facing Romania, France take on Albania and Switzerland in their remaining group stage matches.
Writing by Shravanth Vijayakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Hugh Lawson