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“Work Pays”

The U20 coach looks back on the success of the 2002 generation during the Maurice-Revello International Tournament and takes stock of this “post”-covid recovery season.

“Was the night lively after your success at the Maurice-Revello International Tournament against Venezuela on Sunday (2-1)?
The evening was calm because there was a lot of fatigue. The players were happy to share this last meal together. The idea was to close the course and send the messages for the rest of their career telling them that the selection was not over. This is just the beginning. A title is not forgotten especially as it is the first for them. It was a peaceful moment, there was serenity. They are happy with a job well done and above all with having sacrificed their holidays to win this competition!

The report of the final

What feeling dominates the day after this title?
The pride of having succeeded in composing a group which was, within three or four players, the one present throughout the season. During the first gathering at the start of the school year, we had a challenge: to prepare for this Tournament. It wasn’t easy as the players were aiming to play for clubs and in September that wasn’t the case. Projecting was not easy for them when they had short-term deadlines like the Championship, the Cup or even the Champions League. Some also aspired to go to Espoirs, some have tasted it but have gone down. The pride is in having been able to maintain this objective at the start of the season, to have kept them under pressure, to have shown them that the Toulon Tournament was not a small tournament. In young people, there is the World Cup, the European Championship and the Toulon Tournament. U16-U17-U18 is different from U19-U20. There, they are at the door of Hopes.

“Venezuela had come to fight a fight, they were over-motivated even on the sidelines. The first thing was to stay calm, don’t get angry and don’t talk to the referee. »

What analysis do you make of this final where you were quickly led to the score before reacting in the second half?
During the video session and the talk, we had anticipated different scenarios. The only one that we had perhaps not anticipated was their system because their best player, Segovia, is a central No. 10 or 9 and a half. And finally, seeing that we were playing with a defense of five, they put two forwards and shifted Segovia to the right side. Positioning his best player in an eccentric role challenged me. This destabilized us a little because I had decided to put a player, little “Jo” Lepenant, on his mark to prevent him from expressing himself. We then changed the scheme by going back to four defenders instead of five. Things were going better and at half-time after talking with the players, we decided to come back to five behind with two midfielders and bring some freshness thanks to Nathanaël (Mbuku), Amir (Richardson) and Kiliann (Sildilla). The first period destabilized us a little but I’m happy because the players were able to resist, not concede a second goal and keep a low profile.


Thierno Baldé, Sékou Mara, Lucien Agoumé, Michaël Amir Richardson and Nathanaël Mbuku (photo Pauline CARRÉ / APL / FFF).

Venezuela gave you problems, particularly in terms of aggressiveness. Did you expect this?
The commitment of the Venezuelans surprised us. They used the anti-game, annoyed our players, talked to them… We had a glimpse against Panama (0-0, 2 TAB 4) and we had imagined a match physiognomy close to this one but there, it was power 10 because Panama played fair play. Venezuela had come to play a fight, they were over-motivated even on the sidelines. As I told the players, they came with their weapons, they opened the scoring, it was up to us to impose our game. It’s always a balance of power. The first thing was to stay calm, don’t get angry and don’t talk to the referee.

Demonstrate intelligence both in behavior and in play?
When I signed with the FFF, Noël Le Graët (President) told me he likes to see teams that play well, win and perform well. I kept that in mind. Having a team that plays well, we showed it in particular through the number of goals we scored (17). Which also behaves well since we won the fair play trophy and in the final, we did not go crazy. In September, during a somewhat similar match against Norway at Clairefontaine (1-2, the 6th), it was complicated, the players almost had bloodshed. In one year, we notice a progression, an improvement and that they are able to question themselves. It is a satisfaction!


Striker Maghnes Akliouche during a friendly match against Portugal this season (photo Pauline CARRÉ / APL / FFF).

After a sluggish start against Panama when you entered the competition (0-0, 2 TAB 4), the selection has increased in power…
We knew that the first game would be very difficult. We had identified Panama as an athletic and technical team. With the staff, we met them at the 2019 World Cup with the 1999 generation (2-0). Unfortunately, players arrived after a fortnight’s vacation despite the program we had provided when others didn’t have time off and went on. There were disparate states of form. And the transfer period to manage too. We got together on Wednesday, we played on Sunday, in three days it was difficult to get everyone on track for the first game. That’s why I had decided to rotate during the first two meetings in order to give everyone playing time and to manage states of fatigue or misshapenness. We were able to do it and we were operational from the third match against Argentina.

“We told them: ”You are the 2002 generation, the one who risks competing in the 2024 Olympic Games organized in France. Winning the Toulon Tournament will give you a lot of positive energy and show your clubs that you have qualities and want to impose yourself. »

What is your assessment of this season of recovery after exercises truncated by the health situation and marked by draws or defeats to achieve this final success?
Hard work pays, don’t give up. We trusted this group. At the level of the staff, we are starting to have a little experience together. We remained on a defeat at Euro U19 2018 with the 1999 generation (0-2 against Italy) and a loss against the United States in the 2019 U20 World Cup (2-3) which is still not digested . We were keen to put in the best conditions the players who remained on two semi-finals U17 and U19. We told them that if there was a victory, it would be a first for them, for us, a first together. Yes, this season, we have lost matches. Yes, there was the COVID. Unfortunately there was no U19 competition for them but it was an opportunity to write their story and forget this difficult period. They were told: ”You are the 2002 generation, the one who risks competing in the 2024 Olympic Games organized in France. Winning the Toulon Tournament will give you a lot of positive energy and show your clubs that you have qualities and want to impose yourself..

They did so despite reduced playing time at the club for some.
Indeed, they managed to deliver very high quality performances like Tanguy Kouassi, Chrislain Matsima, Sekou Mara… Adil Aouchiche arrived from Saint-Étienne where he had had a complicated season. He was coming out of a difficult match and brought his desire and his qualities. Little Magnes (Akliouche) does not play in Monaco and finished second top scorer behind Sekou and third best player in the tournament. We had a quality group with twenty-two competitors. We are proud of them. When we see this result or that of José Alcocer (European champion U17), this rewards the work done over the past two years. During the COVID period, we multiplied the meetings of selections, we took advantage of these moments to discuss the game project of the young selections… I wish the same success to Landry (Chauvinist) and Sandrine (Ringler)who will soon compete in the Euros U19 men (June 18-July 1) and feminine (June 27-July 9) as well as Sonia (Haziraj) at the South Ladies Cup (June 22 to 28). »

Coach Bernard Diomede’s profile

The 22 winners of the Tournament

  • Guardians (2): Hugo Barbet (EA Guingamp), Melvin Zinga (Angers SCO)
  • Defenders (8): Thierno Baldé (Le Havre AC), Maxime Estève (Montpellier HSC), Tanguy Nianzou Kouassi (FC Bayern Munich, GER), Ziyad Larkèche (Fulham FC), Chrislain Matsima (AS Monaco), Kiliann Sildillia (SC Fribourg, GER), Brandon Soppy (Udinese Calcio, ITA), Robin Voisine (FC Nantes)
  • Midfielders (6): Mohamed Achi (FC Nantes), Lucien Agoumé (Stade Brestois), Adil Aouchiche (AS Saint-Étienne), Théo Le Bris (FC Lorient), Johann Lepenant (SM Caen), Michael Amir Richardson (Le Havre AC)
  • Forwards (6): Maghnes Akliouche (AS Monaco FC), Yoann Cathline (EA Guingamp), Yanis Cimignani (AC Ajaccio), Hugo Ekitike (Stade de Reims), Sékou Mara (Girondins de Bordeaux), Nathanael Mbuku (Stade de Reims).

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