Tuesday 08 October 2019, 22:57

Zinga out to reenact French fairytale of 2001

  • Melvin Zinga representing France at FIFA U-17 World Cup Brazil 2019

  • Le Harve native following in the footsteps of two famous Normandy-born players

  • Goalkeeper dreaming of a world title, 18 years after Les Bleuets’ first

It is now 18 years since France claimed their one and only FIFA U-17 World Cup title. Led by Florent Sinama-Pongolle and Anthony Le Tallec, winners of the adidas Golden and Silver Balls respectively, Les Bleuets were crowned champions at Trinidad and Tobago 2001 courtesy of a 3-0 defeat of Nigeria in the decider. The current France U-17 goalkeeper Melvin Zinga was not even born at the time.

“I've obviously heard a thing or two about that pair,” Melvin Zinga tells FIFA.com. “Those two had the same footballing education as I’ve had, coming through Le Havre AC’s youth academy. You can’t but admire what they’ve achieved, so we’ll try to follow their example,” he adds.

Just like his illustrious predecessors, Zinga will have to cross the Atlantic to compete for the world crown. The destination on this occasion is Brazil, where Chile, Haiti, and Korea Republic will provide the opposition at the group stage. “I’m approaching this tournament calmly. There’s no pressure to take on, just enjoyment to get from it,” he explains. “However, that doesn't mean we’re going there with no ambition.”

And while the chance of a world title is sufficient motivation in itself, Les Bleuets have an additional point to prove after their semi-final defeat to Italy at the UEFA U-17 EURO, having surrendered a 2-1 lead. “We didn’t deserve to lose that day, but it happens sometimes. Now we need to consign that to history and do better,” the player insists.

Georginio Rutter, Temitope Akinjogunla, Teo Zidane, goalkeeper Marvin Zinga and Lucien Agoume celebrate

Melvin Zinga in brief

  • Born: 16 March 2002

  • Height: 1.86m

  • Club nearest his heart: Le Havre

  • Dream club: FC Barcelona

  • Role model: Marc-Andre ter Stegen

First-choice in Brazil

France certainly have the weapons to succeed in Brazil, not least in Paris Saint-Germain’s Adil Aouchiche, who scored a record-breaking nine times in the final phase of European qualifying, during which Enzo Millot of Monaco and Lucien Agoume of Inter Milan also stood out. “More than individual talents, what we have is magnificent team spirit,” says Zinga. And a good keeper too? “Several, and we all get on very well,” he replies.

Zinga prefers to focus on the group as a whole but, judging by his fine performances at the U-17 EURO and in recent friendlies, the Le Harve native will likely be first-choice in Brazil. “Obviously, there’s no guarantee that I’ll start every game. That said, the coaching staff know I’ll give my all out there if that should happen,” says this ardent admirer of Marc-Andre ter Stegen. “Why him? Well he knows how to be decisive – simple as that.”

Curiously, Ter Stegen and Germany failed to survive the group phase when competing in the U-17 World Cup at Nigeria 2009. So, while it would be great for Zinga to end up at the same level as his illustrious German role model, it would be better for the young Frenchman to initially follow in the footsteps of his title-winning predecessors from Normandy.