Pierre Mankowski thanked his players for a "nice journey" after a FIFA U-20 World Cup victory capped his reign as France coach.
No European team had taken the title since Spain in 1999 but France ended that run in Istanbul as, shorn of suspended centre-back Samuel Umtiti, Les Bleuets held their nerve to prevail 4-1 in a penalty shoot-out after a cagey final ended goalless. Defender Dimitri Foulquier showed great composure to convert the winning penalty in Istanbul but the star of the show was Alphonse Areola, the goalkeeper saving Uruguay's first two kicks.
Having led the '1993 generation' since 2011, Mankowski is the fourth coach to guide France to a FIFA tournament success 15 years and one day after the first – Aimé Jacquet steering the senior side to glory in 1998, before Jean-François Jodar did likewise with the men's Under-17s in 2001 and Guy Ferrier triumphed at the 2012 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup.
"It was very tough," said Mankowski, on the coaching staff for the side that lost the 2006 World Cup final to Italy on penalties in Berlin. "Six weeks is a long stay, but the players deserved to win this trophy. It was a nice journey around Turkey for them and for all the people who supported us."
France only picked up four points in the group stage after losing to Spain, who had beaten Mankowski's side on penalties in the semi-final of the qualifying event – the 2012 UEFA European U19 Championship in Estonia. But, in the knockout stage, France defeated hosts Turkey, Uzbekistan and Ghana to reach the final, where 20,000 fans at the Ali Sami Yen Spor Kompleksi - including senior coach Didier Deschamps – watched their triumph, with Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba receiving the Golden Ball as player of the tournament.
"It's a huge joy," right-back Lucas Digne said. "It still has to sink in but we know we did something great. We got possession in the final. We were calm and knew it would go for us."
With the likes of Pogba, Paris Saint-Germain FC's reserve goalkeeper Alphonse Areola, winger Florian Thauvin, and 2012/13 UEFA Europa League rising star Umtiti, among others, Willy Sagnol now inherits a fine set of players as U21 coach, along with Real Madrid CF's Raphaël Varane, who missed the World Cup through injury.
Among their rivals with an eye on the 2015 UEFA European U21 Championship in the Czech Republic are the other nations that competed in Turkey. Spain, for many the favourites as European champions, fell in the quarter-finals 1-0 after extra time against Uruguay. Croatia, Portugal and Greece, along with Turkey, went out in the round of 16 while England fell in the group stage.
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