Samuel Umtiti said France could leave the UEFA European Under-19 Championship in Estonia with their heads held high despite the disappointment of a semi-final defeat at the hands of Spain.
Les Bleuets showed formidable spirit in a gripping encounter that lasted well over two hours, twice levelling with defeat looming. Umtiti, who had put Pierre Mankowski's team in front from close range following a 26th-minute corner, made it 2-2 from a similar route in added time, before Paul Pogba's 117th-minute strike taking the tie into a penalty shoot-out. There fortune turned against France, Umtiti and Geoffrey Kondogbia having their kicks saved by goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga as Spain edged into Sunday's final.
"It was a good game and both sides played well, as we expected," Umtiti told UEFA.com. "We were up for it, but in the end it came down to penalties and we are very disappointed that we lost. There were times when Spain were more in control of the game than us and then there were times when we were had the upper hand. We scored three goals in what was a very open game, but this defeat really is a huge disappointment."
France's spirit shone through at Tallinn's Lilleküla Stadiu, and Umtiti could only reflect on how that had proved to be insufficient in the final reckoning. "We are a very strong, united squad and we showed that we never say die. We always stuck at it, but in the end it was not enough for victory and that was a real shame. Both sides were very tired in the end and we gave everything, but that's life."
The dejection as France fell just short was still raw, but the Olympique Lyonnais centre-back was keen to point out that there is plenty of cause for pride in the squad. "We are very disappointed because our aim was the final and to stop here in the semi-finals is upsetting, but we played a good game and nobody can take that away from us," he explained. "
Certainly there are lots of positives. We have worked together for two years and we made it to the semi-finals, where we played very well, even if we are nevertheless disappointed."
After a season in which Umtiti made his first-team breakthrough at Lyon with 11 Ligue 1 starts – all since January – next on his international agenda is the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey, where he will be aiming high once again. "We will treat the World Cup the same way we treated this tournament," he said. "We will try to keep the same squad of players and why not go as far as possible? We all have a year now to perform for our clubs to earn our places."
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