The age-old enemies go head-to-head on June 11, with the victor taking a stranglehold over a tough Group D that also contains Ukraine and Sweden.
The Arsenal man has confessed that it is the worst possible game to start with, and is expecting a tight encounter.
“Our first match is like a final for us,” the centre-half is quoted as saying by Mirror Football.
“To play against England is the worst possible draw but it will be a enormous chance for us to progress if we win.
“We can’t afford to lose. Normally you might expect France and England to qualify for the second phase but football never works like that.
“We know this is like a final because defeat would be a disaster. Our first objective is to get out of the group and to lose the first game would make it very difficult,” he admitted.
By Gareth McKnight