Ukraine, Jun16: 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.”