RIBEIRAO PRETO, Brazil (AP) — Though the atmosphere in France's World Cup squad is better than it has been for many years, Patrice Evra knows that the guillotine of public opinion will be waiting if there's any repeat of its troubles in 2010.
Evra was captain when the squad created controversy at the 2010 World Cup by refusing to get off the bus for practice in protest at the exclusion of their teammate, Nicolas Anelka.
"I think 2010 consumed all of my energy, I took everything to heart. Now, with experience, I'm able to take a step back," Evra said Wednesday told a news conference. "I know that if I make the slightest false step, there are some people who are capable of getting the guillotine out again. I'm not crazy."
Evra served a five-match ban and was widely vilified by the French media for his role in the strike. Although he played at the European Championship two years ago, he was a peripheral figure under former coach Laurent Blanc. That squad was also marred by disputes and conflict, which has not been the case so far in Brazil.
"I've been in a lot of squads but this one is scary because everything's going well. At the dinner table, players say 'Pat, imagine if we all played together for the same club.' It goes to show how they don't want this adventure to end" Evra said.
"The team spirit is beyond reproach. But the day we start thinking that everything is easy and behaving like stars then we'll fail. I've got a lot of respect for our opponents, but our number one opponent is France (ourselves)."
Since France beat Ukraine 3-0 in the second leg of their World Cup playoff, having lost the first leg 2-0, the disgruntled fans are once more lending their hard-earned support.
"The French were scared to believe in this team. The Ukraine match changed that and now they really believe," Evra said. "More than 17 million watched our first match (on television) and that's huge. When you feel that whole country behind you it makes you so proud and you want to give more."
The 33-year-old Evra, who stands to win his 60th cap against Switzerland in Friday's match, says the players are desperate not to disappoint again.
"The French must be proud of us at the end of the World Cup, whatever happens," he said. "When they see us giving us everything on the pitch, respecting this jersey, then they can say 'they gave everything.'"
France made a good start, beating Honduras 3-0 in the opening game, and victory against the Swiss will probably seal top spot in Group E. This has boosted premature talk of how far France can go, which worries Evra.
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