France defender Bacary Sagna admits he and his team-mates had tears in their eyes during the tributes paid at Wembley to victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris.
England supporters joined in the French national anthem, La Marseillaise, on Tuesday night, singing along to the words displayed on big screens, while one end of the stadium held up cards to form the colours of the Tricolore.
Players from both teams mixed together for pre-match photos in a show of unity and then stood round the centre circle as a minute’s silence was impeccably observed before kick-off.
England went on to win the match 2-0, with Dele Alli and Wayne Rooney scoring the goals, but the real victors were the French players, who mustered a brave performance, just four days after the horrific events in their capital city.
“I had tears in my eyes,” Sagna said.
“Inevitably, like everyone. I am French and when something happens to the French people, it happens to me.
“Everything that happened on Friday will stay with us for a long time. Tomorrow, a week’s time, a year’s time, we will never forget what happened last Friday.”
Sagna added: “After everything that had happened, we had to keep holding our heads high.
“Despite all the difficult things that had happened, we were ready to fight, to give everything.
“On Tuesday night we wanted to win for the people of France. Unfortunately, we lost but it was more than about just a match.”
Many England fans were seen holding French flags and wearing T-shirts with messages of support, while the iconic Wembley arch was lit up in red, white and blue, with France’s national motto ‘Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite’ displayed across the entrance.
At the end of the match, the French players applauded fans in a show of gratitude and Sagna was left in no doubt that it had been the correct decision to play the fixture.
“Although it can’t put a smile back on the faces of the French people, this was the least we could do: to try and give all we could in support of the families of the victims,” Sagnasaid.
“Honestly, yes it was hard to prepare. This was about more than just a football match.
“We were just a little part in a bigger show of strength. But we had trouble sleeping, trouble concentrating. We struggled to focus.
“But, by playing, we were sending out a bigger message. Football is a big part of all our lives, and part of our society, but there are far more important things in life than football.”
France midfielder Lassana Diarra, whose cousin, Asta Diakite, was one of those killed in the Paris attacks, was given a standing ovation when he came on as a substitute in the 57th minute.
“He kept his head high, has smiled and has spoken to us all,” Sagna said of Diarra.
“He tried to get close to everyone. I’ve lost someone close to me in my family and it’s never easy. But he responded like the professional he is.”