A late inclusion in France's squad for the 2004/05 UEFA European Under-19 Championship, Amiens SC striker Abdoulaye Balde repaid the faith of coach Jean Gallice almost immediately at the finals in Northern Ireland.
The tall, pacy forward did not feature in France's qualifying campaign but, having impressed Gallice in two pre-tournament friendlies, started the first game of the finals against England at The Oval in Belfast. France fell behind early on, but Balde strode clear to equalise midway through the first half and secure his side a 1-1 draw. France went on to win Group B, earning a semi-final with Germany, and Balde struck twice more in a 3-2 victory in Ballymena to guide his team back to Belfast and another meeting with England, in the final at Windsor Park.
For Balde, and France, the crowning glory was yet to come. Despite dominating the first half the French fell behind in the 41st minute, Lee Holmes' deflected effort gave England the half-time advantage. Balde created the equaliser eleven minutes into the second half, crossing for Mohamed Chakouri to nod in before putting France in front 15 minutes from time with an clinical close-range finish. A late third from Yohan Gouffran added gloss to the scoreline and gave France the U19 title for the first time.
"The goals I scored didn't come as a surprise to me, more of a reward really," said Balde, who has since graduated to France's U20 side and scored eleven goals in 45 Ligue 2 matches for Amiens. "I wasn't concerned with becoming top scorer at the finals, I just wanted my team to become European champions. That's what we all wanted." Balde's goals were instrumental in ensuring that wish came true.
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