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Santini pleased with draw

Lisbon: European championship holders France welcomed the draw for next years finals and are looking forward to opening the defence of their title against rivals England, their coach and players said on Sunday.

Its a very balanced group, said France coach Jacques Santini. We wanted to avoid The Netherlands and Im pleased we did but we very much respect all the teams.

France and England, who look to be favourites to progress, were drawn in Group B with Switzerland and Croatia.

French midfielder Patrick Vieira added: Its better to be in Group B than to be in Group D with Germany, the Czech Republic, Latvia and Holland. That is quite a difficult group because no matter what happens, one of the big nations will come out.

Former France captain Didier Deschamps said: It could have been worse. England remains a great nation as far as soccer is concerned but France can be quite happy with that draw.

Asked for his reaction to facing England, Vieira said: We are pleased and worried at the same time because its never easy to start by playing against a big team like England. Both teams will want to start with a win and we know how important the first game is because there are only three games and the first three points will be very important.

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