Friday 25 November 2016, 15:30

Chavas stands tall for France

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Friday’s quarter-final between France and Germany saw the Technical Study Group (TSG) hand the Live Your Goals Player of the Match award to a goalkeeper, Les Bleuettes’ Mylene Chavas. The fact that she is the first player in her position to pick up the award at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Papua New Guinea 2016, after no fewer than 28 games, shows just how instrumental she was to her side’s narrow win.

“This is all new for me. I wasn’t expecting it, but I’m proud all the same,” said the quietly spoken Chavas at the post-match press conference. The fact is, though, that it was anything but a surprise that the accolade should go to her, even after Delphine Cascarino put herself in the running for a third individual award in four games with her wondrous match-winning strike after 15 minutes. Yet with Chavas achieving perfection behind her, helping to thwart the reigning champions at every turn, there can be no doubting that the award has gone to the right recipient.

Time and again Chavas was on hand to deny the Germans, with Anna Gerhardt, on two occasions, Saskia Matheis, Dina Orschmann and Rebecca Knaak all finding out for themselves just how good the Saint-Etienne keeper’s reflexes are. Her team-mates can also testify to Chavas’ impressive ability to keep calm whenever the pressure was on, which was often the case in a tense game between two sides who know each other well.

Rites of passage “Staying cool has always been one of my strong points,” she told, keeping her emotions firmly under control. “I’ve always been calm. I’m like that every day and that’s how I came to be a goalkeeper.”

It is hard to believe when talking to Chavas or listening to her bark out instructions on the pitch that she is one of the younger members of the France squad. Coach Gilles Eyquem has made a point of encouraging her to impose herself, however, and to raise her voice on the pitch. “It’s not easy because you have to find your feet somehow,” she explained. “Some of the girls are two years older than me, or three even. It’s tough. But we’re a team after all. We stick together and the girls know very well what my job is.” One of three siblings, Chavas is used to having to fight to make herself heard.

Eyquem was unstinting in his praise of his No1, who helped France land the European U-19 title earlier this year. “She’s a very good goalkeeper. She’s got the lot,” he said. “It’s a very demanding position and she’s mastered it, which is very important. She’s very good in the air and when she stays on her line, she showed against Ghana that she can save penalties. She’s good with her feet too. She’s still young but I think she’s got a very bright future ahead of her.”

Another show-stopping performance from Chavas against semi-final opponents Japan will only strengthen her coach’s belief that she can achieve big things.