France qualified from UEFA European Under-21 Championship Group 9 at a canter but they must pick up the pace to get past play-off opponents Norway, whom coach Erick Mombaerts describes as "an extremely competitive team".
Les Bleus topped their qualifying round section, finishing six points clear of second-placed Slovakia, after triumphing in all but one of their matches. Despite that formidable record, Mombaerts is swayed by caution ahead of Friday's first leg in Le Havre. "We haven't won anything yet," said the former Toulouse FC boss, who has been at the U21 helm since 2008. "We are still two matches away from reaching the finals and we will have to work hard to advance."
Norway came second, behind England, in Group 8 and possess a particular panache that should not be overlooked according to Mombaerts. Indeed, they look a side whose reputation for playing a more direct style is unfounded. "Norway are an extremely competitive team and you will be surprised by how well they can play," he said. "It's time to stop thinking they are a team who send long balls into the box. We shouldn't underestimate them and I will make this point to my players."
With Arsenal FC's Francis Coquelin suspended, Mombaerts has re-energised his ranks by recalling Stade Rennais FC defensive midfielder Yann M'Vila, who featured on three occasions for the senior squad at UEFA EURO 2012. "He is eligible for the Under-21s and considering his talent it would be stupid not to have called him up," said the 57-year-old tactician. "I'm just happy to be back in the squad, linking up with my old pals," added M'Vila, 22.
As well as a talented Norway side, France must also overcome the weight of history having failed to reach the finals since 2006. Unperturbed by the past Mombaerts is empowered by positive thinking. "When you lose in the play-offs, like we did against the eventual winners [Germany] at this stage in 2008/09, it's a bit difficult. What matters is what happens now, not in the past," he said.
Ali Ahamada (Toulouse FC), Joris Delle (OGC Nice).
Sébastien Corchia (FC Sochaux-Montbéliard), Lucas Digne (LOSC Lille), Nicolas Isimat-Mirin (Valenciennes FC), Eliaquim Mangala (FC Porto), Chris Mavinga (Stade Rennais FC), Raphaël Varane (Real Madrid CF).
Yacine Brahimi (Granda CF), Clément Grenier (Olympique Lyonnais), Joshua Guilavogui (AS Saint-Étienne), Anthony Knockaert (Leicester City FC), Yann M'Vila (Stade Rennais CF), Vincent Pajot (Stade Rennais FC), Benjamin Stambouli (Montpellier Hérault SC).
Wissam Ben Yedder (Toulouse FC), Rémy Cabella (Montpellier Hérault SC), Antoine Griezmann (Real Sociedad de Fútbol), Alexandre Lacazette (Olympique Lyonnais), M'baye Biang (SM Caen), Henri Saivet (FC Girondins de Bordeaux).
Arild Østbø (IK Start), Ørjan Håskjold Nyland (IL Hødd Fotball).
Vegar Hedenstad (SC Freiburg), Thomas Rogne (Celtic FC), Stefan Strandberg (Rosenborg BK), Fredrik Semb Berge (Odd Grenland), Jonatan Tollås (Aalesund FK).
Omar Elabdellaoui (Feyenoord), Anders Konradsen (Strømsgodset IF), Harmeet Singh (Feyenoord), Yann-Erik de Lanlay (Viking FK), Etzaz Hussain (Molde FK), Jørgen Skjelvik (Kalmar FF), Jonas Svensson (Rosenborg BK), Stefan Johansen (Strømsgodset IF), Mathis Bolly (Lillestrøm SK).
Jo Inge Berget (Molde FK), Marcus Pedersen (Odense BK), Håvard Nielsen (FC Salzburg), Mushaga Bakenga (Cercle Brugge KSV).
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