FIFA U17: France coach confident of ending 15-year jinx

Lionel Rouxel aims to help his team enter the elusive semifinals in the FIFA U-17 World Cup.

Lionel Rouxel... “My goal is to at least reach the semifinals.”   -  Getty Images

After clinching the U-17 FIFA World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago in 2001, France has struggled to progress beyond the quarterfinal stage in the seven appearances it has made since.

Coach Lionel Rouxel is here to oversee his team break the 15-year-old jinx, in what will be his first World Cup outing. “We will take the matches one by one but my goal is to at least reach the semifinals,” said the 47-year-old, in an interaction with Sportstar.

Read: England prodigy Jadon Sancho joins team training

The Les Bluets, who were the last European team to qualify for the tournament, take on first-timer New Caledonia in a Francophone derby in its first Group D encounter in Guwahati's Indira Gandhi Stadium on October 8. Speaking about New Caledonia, Rouxel said his side would not take the new entrant easy. “We have to respect New Caledonia even though it’s their first time here. We are training hard and looking to win. A win in the first match is very important to begin the tournament.”

‘Balanced side’

When asked about what kind of a formation his side will play, given that his side boasts seven strikers, he said, “We have good players in all positions and have a balanced side. We have to ensure our defence is strong and does not concede any goals.”

Read: Vinicius Jr. to miss FIFA U-17 World Cup

“We will watch all the matches and observe our opponents. I’m going to prepare the side to win all the matches,” he added.

The side’s attack is spearheaded by star-striker Amine Gouiri, who hammered nine goals in the U-17 Euro championships and finished as the tourney's top-scorer. “Amine is a good player. If he wants to score goals, he has to work for the team and vice-versa. All our players are equally important,” said the coach of Gouiri, who plays for Ligue 1 side Olympique Lyon.

‘Lucky to have all players’

With controversy surrounding the release of players such as Brazilian Vinicius Jr. from his club Flamengo and England’s Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund to participate at the event, Rouxel is glad to have faced no such difficulty with his side.

“I am lucky to have all the players I wanted. All the academies thought it was a good thing for our players to participate in the World Cup. It is a good experience and a great platform for the players - this is where they begin their professional football careers,” he said.

Rouxel admits that his players are finding it difficult to adapt to the soaring local temperatures, but is sure they are well-prepared.