France coach Gilles Eyquem tells UEFA.com about his introduction to women's football, his hopes for August's finals in Wales and the benefit of having world champions in his squad.
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Gilles Eyquem and France look to be going places in a hurry. The coach was only appointed last August but he has soon made an impression, leading a youthful squad to the 2013 UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship with minimum fuss.
The 54-year-old tells UEFA.com about his introduction to the women's game and the challenge awaiting his side in south Wales in August when they meet England, Denmark and Wales in Group A. It is a test he is relishing, especially with a squad with foundations rooted in the team that won last autumn's FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup.
UEFA.com: What are your thoughts on the draw?
Gilles Eyquem: I don't know our opponents too well, so I have mixed feelings. I will wait a bit and learn about them. Wales are organising these finals and it is always difficult to come and play the host country. Then I think Denmark and England will be two difficult teams to play. There are two tough groups, even if Germany are favourites.
UEFA.com: A lot of your squad come from the triumphant U-17 World Cup side; how much does it help to have players who know how to win?
Eyquem: Having world champions in our team has had a positive impact on the squad. They have brought their sense of competitiveness; these girls are hungry for success. They are pulling us to the top, especially Griedge M'Bock Bathy who was voted best player at the U-17 World Cup. I think that is very positive. At the moment the team is in [the middle of] a winning cycle, they are competitors, and it will not be a problem for them [to play this competition].
UEFA.com: How have you found your introduction to coaching women's football?
Eyquem: It has been a great pleasure, a real joy. Previously I had coached many boys' teams, with great generations of players. But I enjoy working with the girls a lot, especially the respect and attention the girls show. Training is a pleasure: the girls do just what we ask of them. The squad live very well together and that is reflected on the pitch. We are improving game by game, and I hope we will play even better at the finals. There is still some fine-tuning to do, though.
UEFA.com: Was it difficult for you at the start of qualifying because you didn't know the other WU19 teams?
Eyquem: No, it wasn't too difficult. We based our work on ourselves, on our team and especially on ball retention. I think that was where the girls needed to improve, and they are still improving bit by bit. The individual talent of girls like Claire Lavogez, Griedge M'Bock, Ghoutia Karchouni allow the team to go forward.
UEFA.com: Does the success of French sides at club level, especially Olympique Lyonnais, impact on your work in the national game?
Eyquem: It can only be positive. The success of clubs like Lyon and [FCF] Juvisy [Essone], who also had a strong campaign in the Champions League, means the girls are gaining experience at a high level and that is always beneficial for the national team. It works the other way too – the more the younger girls play final tournaments, the more experience they gain and that is good for their clubs.
France kick off their campaign against England on 19 August.