England’s long wait for Euro 2016 is nearly over after Roy Hodgson’s men arrived on French soil feeling relaxed and excited ahead of Saturday’s opener against Russia.
The Three Lions became the first side to qualify for the tournament back in September, sealing their place with three matches to spare.
Hodgson’s men ended qualification with a 100 per cent record and crossed the Channel yesterday in good spirits, having won hard-fought preparation matches against Turkey, Australia and Portugal.
Gary Cahill, one of the most experienced members of the youngest squad at Euro 2016, described the mood as “nice and relaxed and calm” ahead of Group B getting under way against Russia in Marseille.
“It’s a new experience for the guys who haven’t been in a tournament before, but one they should be looking forward to and I know they are,” the centre-back said upon landing in France.
“The mood’s relaxed and ready to get down to business.
“We’ve had some good training sessions and a good few weeks’ preparation. The lads are just excited to get started.”
England arrived at Le Bourget Airport yesterday afternoon, with the northern-based players boarding at Manchester before stopping at Luton to collect the rest of the party and flying onto Paris.
Quite a fanfare welcomed the team coach after making the 20-mile journey to their training base in Chantilly, with horses leading the security-flanked team coach up to the Auberge du Jeu de Paume hotel.
The riders, donning ceremonial costume, were from the nearby Museum of the Horse, while hunting horns sounded as the coaching staff and players made their way off the coach. Hotel staff, the mayor of Chantilly and representatives of local club US Chantilly, where England will be training during Euro 2016, were among those greeting the squad, with gifts exchanged.
Mayor Eric Woerth presented Hodgson and captain Wayne Rooney with commemorative medals from the city, while the Football Association reciprocated with an inscribed crystal vase.
A large media presence and smattering of locals were also in attendance when the team arrived at 2.50pm local time, with a short behind-closed-doors training session held later in the afternoon.
England will hold an open training session this morning ahead of Saturday’s Group B clash with Russia – a match Hodgson cannot wait for, nine months after wrapping up qualification.
“It’s what we’ve been looking forward to for such a long time,” the Three Lions boss said.
“We qualified quite early so we’ve had our minds on this moment for a long time and it’s just great to be here.
“I think it will be a very good tournament with a lot of good teams taking part.
“We are relaxed and we think we are in decent form and just hoping we can show that on the field.
“The message (to the players) is we have to show confidence in ourselves.
“I would like the players to show as much confidence in themselves as we, the coaching staff, have in them and we know we have a lot of very talented footballers.
“The one thing we don’t have is a lot of experience, but often the energy and enthusiasm the young players will show will make up for that.”
England’s players will certainly be well catered for at the £500-per-night Auberge du Jeu de Paume, to which the FA have exclusive access for the duration of the tournament.
The squad can play table tennis, darts and snooker in the team’s leisure room, as well as games varying from Jenga to Bop It.
A number of books have been provided such as A Game of Thrones and autobiographies of figures including Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela, Lewis Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Sir Alex Ferguson.
There is an extensive medical room and England-branded gym, complete with images from qualification matches, while US Chantilly’s Stade des Bourgognes home has been given a facelift for the tournament.
A tarpaulin screen has been erected around the facility, which the FA say is UEFA fencing and other associations will have a similar set-up.
In addition, the site is on public land but allows England and their entourage a certain element of privacy within the training complex.