France team praises quality of Donbass Arena field

France coach Laurent Blanc praised the Donbass Arena’s playing

surface for withstanding a torrential downpour in Friday’s

storm-delayed European Championship match against Ukraine.

Friday’s match, which France won 2-0 to move top of Group D, was

suspended after just five minutes when a thunderstorm broke over

the stadium and forced the players to scurry into the tunnel as

torrential rain poured down and lightning flashed in the night

sky.

When the players came back out nearly an hour later, the ground

staff had done well to drain much of the water away.

”I wasn’t scared of the thunder or lightning, but I was scared

the game would be postponed because the pitch wouldn’t be in good

enough condition to start the game again,” Blanc said Saturday.

”To my surprise, the pitch was in good shape an hour later, and we

were able to play a good game.”

The day before the match, Blanc had complained about the blazing

heat in Donetsk, saying it was more difficult for teams playing

early in the evening to attack with as much energy and commitment

as those kicking off at night.

Temperatures hit 33 C (91 F) for the opening game in Group D

between France and England at the Donbass Arena on Monday. France

pushed back its final training session by several hours on Thursday

to avoid the late-afternoon sun.

Friday’s deluge took Blanc completely by surprise.

”We hadn’t prepared anything for this,” he said. ”The

Ukrainians didn’t want to water the pitch before the match, and

they were proved right.”

Players from both teams faced an agonizing wait as officials

decided whether to resume the match.

”When there’s a break like that, you have to keep your

concentration because the match can restart at any time,” France

midfielder Yann M’Vila said. ”You have to stay warm and make sure

your muscles don’t get cold.”

Left back Gael Clichy says the players were relieved the game

was not postponed.

”It felt quite strange, we thought maybe we would play the next

morning. I think the organizers made the right decision,” Clichy

said. ”During the break there was lots of laughter in the dressing

room, a few jokes. It took a bit of the pressure off.”