Germany have been France's nemeses in the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship going back to the inaugural final, but Les Bleuettes coach Paco Rubio and defender Claire Levasseur believe the outcome could be different on Thursday.
The competition's first decider ended in a 3-0 win for Germany against France in 2008, and it was 4-1 when they met again in the semi-finals under Rubio a year later. Last season, his side had their campaign halted by the same opponents following a 1-0 loss in the first qualifying round, but, having reached the Nyon showcase for the third time this season, France face Germany yet again in the last four.
Rubio said: "Germany are giants in Europe and it will be anything but easy, but the girls have told me they will go to Switzerland to bring back the trophy. From that perspective, everything is possible. I feel they are motivated and I feel like we have enough quality to face this challenge and take the trophy."
There is certainly room for optimism, not least with France's senior side having progressed further than Germany by reaching the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup semi-finals – their best ever run in the tournament. "I watched all the games and it was great to see," said FCF Juvisy Essonne player Levasseur. "What made me even happier was that I've now joined the Juvisy first team and get to train with [France captain] Sandrine Soubeyrand and Gaëtane Thiney. You can only improve with them."
However, while Germany were upset by Japan in the World Cup last eight, Levasseur knows that their U17 side have been scoring freely this season. "We analysed them on video," she said. "They are clearly physically strong and whether winning or losing they give 100%. We'll have to respond in every challenge. We also realised we're going to meet good individual players who are technically quick. It will be demanding to put them on the back foot to prevail."
Rubio nonetheless emphasised that his charges are feeling "calm, as we are on a seven-game unbeaten run". The recovery of midfielder Claire Lavogez from an ankle injury also gives him a full-strength squad as France set out to challenge Germany on Thursday before then tackling either Iceland or Spain – for first or third place – three days later.
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