Not many footballers are able to react as magnanimously to being dropped as Claire Lavogez did after France's 2-1 victory over Germany yesterday. But then not every player comes off the bench to help their country to a UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship final.
Lavogez, omitted from Gilles Eyquem's starting lineup after featuring in her team's previous two group matches, emerged after half-time to help Les Bleuettes steal the initiative in a tight semi-final at Llanelli's Parc y Scarlets. After Kadidiatou Diani had fired France in front within five minutes of her own introduction as a 57th-minute substitute, Lavogez flighted over a 64th-minute corner which Diani powered past Germany keeper Meike Kämper for two-nil.
The attack-minded Lavogez, brought on in place of right-winger Faustine Robert, saw the logic behind coach Ezquem's selection, telling UEFA.com: "We were both on the bench as part of our coach's tactics and I think it worked very well thanks to the two goals scored by Kadi [Diani]."
Though match winner Diani has now appeared in all four games in south-west Wales for the Group A runners-up, her only start was the goalless matchday one encounter with England – a fixture that will be reprised for Saturday's final. Reflecting on the heroics that got France there, the No9 said: "Yes, it is great. For the second goal, Claire crossed the ball, I put my head in and it ended up in the back of the net. For the first, meanwhile, I picked up the ball outside the area, one sidestep and then I curled it in. I am delighted."
That first finish from the FCF Juvisy Essonne forward was not only arced perfectly around Kämper's reach; it was also the No9's opening contribution. Enough to earn a spot in Eyquem's XI for the Llanelli showcase? "I hope to start the final," the 18-year-old admitted.
"The coach will decide. As for the goals we will see but I will do everything to score again. Germany was not an easy game, but the most difficult is coming with the final," added Diani, a heroine of France's triumph at last autumn's FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in Azerbaijan, along with current team-mates Aissatou Tounkara, Griedge M'Bock Bathy, Léa Declercq, Sandie Toletti, Ghoutia Karchouni and Alexandra Atamaniuk.
This 1995 generation lost the 2012 UEFA European Women's U17 Championship final on penalties to Germany after Diani had scored in a 1-1 draw. A year before, a French side skippered by Lavogez again finished second, this time to Spain, in the U17 event – giving France's charismatic No15 further motivation to win this weekend.
"For the world champions it would be great to be able to add this title to their collection. Then, for us players born in 1994, it is a good opportunity to win something after being U17 runners-up. Why not be U19 champions and try to lift the next World Cup? Why not?" asked the 19-year-old Montpellier Hérault SC playmaker.
"We lost to Germany in two U17 finals. We have now managed to beat them so I think in the final we are going to try everything to win this EURO. We will try to play our best football, and if we play like we did on Wednesday, with the same will and determination, we can prevail."
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