The French national school at Clairefontaine has been just as prolific in producing women's footballers as men, and their nation's success in the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship is proof of that. Goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi was one of the brightest stars in that period.
Having taken up football when she was eight, Bouhaddi was only 16 when she came into the France squad for the 2003 U19 finals. She kept two clean sheets in three second qualifying round games to secure a place in Germany, and was No1 in the finals as France battled through to the last four, where she really came into her own. Bouhaddi made a series of fine saves as France defeated England 2-0 to set up a showdown with Norway. France had lost finals in 1998 and 2002 but Bouhaddi was unbeatable once more as 2-0 proved a lucky scoreline again in Leipzig and the title was secured.
Bouhaddi and France were back a year later, but missed out in a four-way tie in the group stage. The teenaged Bouhaddi made her full debut in February and later kept goal at UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2005. Still her U19 career was not over – fresh from the senior event she travelled to Hungary for the 2005 finals and let in only two goals in four games as France reached the decider. There was an unhappy ending; Bouhaddi hit the post when taking a potential winning penalty in the shoot-out and Russia took full advantage to lift the trophy.
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