The centre-back - who was named in coach Laurent Blanc's 23-man squad this week - admits defeat could have severe consequences for Les Bleus, in a group which also contains Sweden and co-hosts Ukraine.
"Our first match is like a final for us," the 26-year-old said in the Daily Mirror. "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."