Soubeyrand: The final will be unforgettable for France

Looking on from the stands as France edged past Japan on Tuesday and into the final of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Papua New Guinea 2016 was one Sandrine Soubeyrand. Having flown into Port Moresby from Paris in the morning, the legendary former Bleues midfielder shrugged off jet lag on a day to remember for French women’s football.

Her country’s most capped player with 198 appearances and a member of the side that reached the semi-finals of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™, Soubeyrand retired in 2014 and is following Les Bleuettes’ exploits closely in her capacity as the coordinator of France’s youth teams and the coach of the national U-17 women’s side. In joining up with the jubilant France players after Tuesday’s semi-final, she gave an interview with What were you doing at the age of 20?Sandrine Soubeyrand: I never played in youth competitions, but with my job now I can follow all of them. My first one was the U-20 World Cup in 2014. The team went out in the semi-finals and finished third on that occasion, but they’ve done better here and I’m delighted for them. It’s true that there wasn’t any of this when I was playing, but times change. It’s great that they get to enjoy an experience like this. It’s going to help the France players grow and develop and they’ll have some unforgettable memories.

How is your job going?Luckily for me, the head of the French FA asked me to take charge of the national teams straightaway, and through the players I’ve been able to continue experiencing emotions like this. It’s fantastic. As well as the U-17s, I coordinate all the national teams, which means I work closely with Gilles Eyquem, because my age group is a springboard to his.

What kind of coach are you? I’m a little bit like I was on the pitch. I just try to instil the values I believe in, like sticking together, working for the team and pushing yourself, all the things that make team sports what they are. You need individual talent but it can only be expressed as part of a team effort, with everyone helping each other out. As we’ve seen today, it’s not always easy, but they kept on believing, gave it their all and stayed organised.

What have you made of the competition so far?Obviously, I’ve been keeping a close eye on France, but I’ve seen lots of great things, especially from Korea DPR and Japan, who are both very interesting and very well-drilled teams. As for Les Bleuettes, they had a tough start, but if they’d been 100 per cent at the beginning of the competition, then they maybe wouldn’t have had enough left to finish the job off. They’ve got better as the tournament’s gone on, but, as I said to Gilles, you have to overcome adversity if you want to achieve things. Their run to the final has shown that.

What kind of final are you expecting against Korea DPR?They’re a bit like Japan. They run hard and play a nice passing game, but don’t tend to dribble so much. I think we can beat them. Some of the players played in and won a final at Azerbaijan in 2012, but this will be an unforgettable occasion for the team as a whole.