France blazed through qualification with a perfect record and much of their success was down to the attacking prowess of skilful winger Mohamed Chemlal and powerful forward Anthony Martial, who combined for 11 goals in their six matches en route to the finals.
It has not taken long for the duo to pick up in Slovenia from where they left off in qualifying. Chemlal opened the scoring early on against Iceland with a stylish finish and second-half substitute Martial added a 56th-minute second. Uncharacteristically, though, France let their advantage slip. For a team that leaked just two goals in six preliminaries, Iceland's two second-half goals were a startling blow.
"It is a draw that really hurts," conceded Chemlal. "Because we were winning 2-0 and also because we handed Iceland both of the goals from set pieces."
It is the first hiccup in an otherwise rewarding visit to Slovenia for the youngsters, and both are keen not to dwell on the negatives. "We are enjoying being here, it is a great tournament," said Martial. "The time we spend here is great experience as it may be the only time we're involved in a competition like this. We have to enjoy ourselves, particularly on the pitch, and leave Slovenia with no regrets."
"Certainly this sort of opportunity does not come around twice in a career for some players," added Chemlal. "We must have fun and try to go as far as possible to make the most of it."
The duo certainly have a lot to live up to. France have a good record at U16 and U17 level, reaching the final on five occasions and winning once, in 2004. Far from burdened by the weight of expectation, Chemlal gets inspiration from the likes of Samir Nasri and his idol, Hatem Ben Arfa, who both lifted the trophy eight years ago.
"That team inspires us a lot, it shows us that anything is possible," he added. "It gives us the drive to do well in this tournament, to go as far as we can and hopefully become European Champions like them."
Conquering Europe may be the long-term aim, but France first face Georgia on Monday. Vasil Maisuradze's charges provided Germany with a stiff test in their opening game, and Martial is not taking the surprise qualifiers lightly. "It will definitely be a difficult match against Georgia," he said. "I think the key for us is to get off to a good start, score early on and try to create some doubt in the mind of our opponents."
Chemlal added: "We have not yet seen too much of Georgia because we have been focused on our match against Iceland. But now we are concentrating on discovering their weaknesses so we can exploit them in the match. We will give our all for a win, because this is a crucial game for us."
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