It is not every day that footballers undertake an in-depth evaluation of their performances after an important match, but Hugo Lloris is not an everyday footballer. Intelligent and respectful, the Lyon and France goalkeeper does not fit the mould of those superstars who have let fame go to their heads.
Consequently, following France’s opening 1-1 draw with England at UEFA EURO 2012, and with Les Bleus’ pivotal clash with event co-hosts and Group D leaders Ukraine just around the corner, the Nice-born custodian agreed to share his thoughts with FIFA.com on his individual display and the prospects of Laurent Blanc’s men at the continental competition.
The high-pressure duel with the Three Lions appears fresh in Lloris' mind, but he is now able to look back in a calm and composed fashion. “It was a great game of football," he said, giving a positive verdict on the match in Donetsk. "Neither team was found wanting. The English were solid, and we battled back well. It’s worth emphasising that it’s never easy to come back from a goal down, and we managed to do it pretty quickly.”
While pleased with the team’s collective performance, Lloris found the experience unusual, from a goalkeeping point of view. “As a keeper, that kind of match doesn’t come along very often," said the 25-year-old custodian. "When you play against England, you would normally touch the ball a lot more than I did. It’s a sign of how well we played, but I was definitely expecting to be tested more often.”
The French No1 was certainly tested by Joleon Lescott’s first-half header, but was unable to stop the English defender from opening the scoring. As if viewing an instant replay in his mind, Lloris is able to dissect exactly what happened during this passage of play.
“Steven Gerrard delivered a free kick from out wide with exceptional accuracy," he said. "We all knew how well he does that kind of thing, and we should have been prepared for it, but we weren’t. We probably also have to ask ourselves – certainly in my case, at least – if we were sitting too deep when the kick was taken.
"The problem is that Alou Diarra couldn’t clear the cross, and the header ended up being from very close in," he continued. "The ball went through my hands: it was going too fast, and I couldn’t react quickly enough. But sometimes there’s just nothing you can do.”
The French now face a critical encounter against a highly-motivated Ukraine side who, as well as benefitting from fervent home support, have qualification in their sights after seeing off Sweden in the section’s other game. Lloris knows that the French will not be able to take their foot off the pedal in any way.
“It’s going to be very tough," said the French captain. "Playing the hosts in front of their home crowd is always tricky, and the Ukrainians have a good team. I’m confident, though, because of how we fought back against England. We showed a lot of character, which is something that can take you a long way.”
For Lloris, it is clear what aspect of France’s play needs to improve if they are to emerge triumphant from Friday’s match: “I think we need to work on our finishing; we need to take our chances. We can’t repeat what we did against England, where we dominated and had lots of shots, but just couldn’t find the net. We have to be more effective in front of goal.”
The goalkeeper nevertheless ends his analysis on an upbeat note. “Taking stock, things have gone well and been pretty positive up to now, especially when compared to South Africa 2010, which still weighs heavily on our shoulders," he said as the conversation concluded. "We could have defeated England, and if we beat Ukraine, we’ll be top of the group. The chance is there and it’s totally in our hands.”