Laëtitia Philippe admitted she was "not too sure" how she managed to protect France's 1-0 lead against Spain after returning from injury to make the crucial late saves that secured Les Bleuettes their first three points in UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship Group B.
Léa Le Garrec's 69th-minute header put Jean-Michel Degrange's side ahead, but as Spain pressed looking for an equaliser Philippe came to the fore with some exceptional glove work. Reclaiming her starting position after missing the Netherlands defeat, she twice denied substitute Esther González in the final minutes – catching the eye in particular with a one-handed save from close range.
"A shot came in from just outside the penalty box and it was just a reflex to put a hand up," she recalled. "
Even I'm not too sure how I managed to keep it out – it was all about reflexes. I didn't play the first match because I had a twisted ankle and was still recovering. I wanted to perform well to prove to the squad that even if I wasn't 100% fit, I was still dependable. Now we've got our bid up and running."
Her team-mates certainly seemed grateful for her contribution, racing back towards goal to leap on top of her at the final whistle. One player not able to join in was Adeline Rousseau, a nervy spectator in the stands after seeing red against the Jong Oranje, but she was well placed to witness another decisive contribution from the 19-year-old, who has already been capped at senior level.
"She's our No1 goalkeeper," said Rousseau. "She's just come back from injury and this was her first match so it wasn't easy for her, but I think this will really help her confidence. The physios did a great job to get her ready in time.
Laëtitia is a very important player in this team and she reassures the rest of us. She has the soul of a captain and leader."
The ESOF Vendée/La Roche sur Yon defender will return for Sunday's meeting with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and she cannot wait to get back in the action, with France needing victory to maximise their chances of advancing to the last four. "It was very stressful watching because we needed to win," said Rousseau. "When time's ticking down and the scores are still level, you obviously think the worst. You want to go out on the pitch and help the others."
If Les Bleuettes prevail against the hosts and Spain overcome the Netherlands in the other Group B game, the latter two sides and France would finish on six points. In that scenario, only a four-goal triumph for Spain would save Degrange's charges from elimination. "Victory will be imperative once again, but everything will depend on the score in the other match," added Rousseau. "We'll do all we can on our side and see what happens."
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