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Zidane, Maouassa keeping things tight for France

France topped Group C with a perfect record and no goals conceded, key to their progress keeper Luca Zidane and left-back Christ-Emmanuel Maouassa, who spoke to UEFA.com.

Pillars of France's success so far in Bulgaria, Luca Zidane and Christ-Emmanuel Maouassa
Pillars of France's success so far in Bulgaria, Luca Zidane and Christ-Emmanuel Maouassa ©Sportsfile

Through to the last eight of the UEFA European Under-17 Championship in some style, having won all three of their Group C games without conceding a goal, France are the first names on many observers' lips when asked for their competition favourites.

Integral to their victories against Scotland (5-0), Russia (1-0) and Greece (1-0) were goalkeeper Luca Zidane and marauding left-back Christ-Emmanuel Maouassa, who sat down with UEFA.com ahead of their quarter-final against Italy in Stara Zagora on Saturday.

"We played Italy last year in a tournament in Portugal and they're a very good team, strong in defence and technically adept. Let's see how we get on against them," said Zidane, who turned 17 on the same day as Les Petits Bleus' triumph over Greece, a match in which he made a particularly smart stop from Vangelis Pavlidis. "First of all, it was good to win the game and the group. Being with the national team is always great, and to celebrate my birthday here with all the guys was fun, too."

But how, we wondered, did Zinédine Zidane's son end up in goal? "When I was little I used to play a lot with my brother [Enzo Fernández], and because he was the oldest he used to say: 'You go in goal.' So I would and he'd shoot at me – it's thanks to him that I'm a keeper," explained the custodian, on the books at Real Madrid CF.

Luca Zidane has kept three clean sheets
Luca Zidane has kept three clean sheets©Sportsfile

"I'm doing everything to go as far as I can in the game, but I'm taking it step by step. Perhaps next year I'll get the chance to move up to the Juvenil A and play for Real Madrid in the UEFA Youth League. Enzo has told me that playing in the Youth League is a great experience, that it teaches you a lot and the standard is really high."

Nor is defender Maouassa short on ambition, the versatile 16-year-old also eyeing a breakthrough with his club. "I hope that by next year or the year after I can get into the first team at Nancy; that's something I'd like very much.” said Maouassa, whose speed, skill and attacking thrust have earned him plenty of admirers in Bulgaria. "I'm a fan of Marcelo, while Jordi Alba is someone I also really like. People often say that I play like Jordi Alba because I like to get up and down the flank a lot. Defending comes first then attacking is a bonus – it's something extra I can offer the team.

"Our strengths are our team spirit, competitiveness and the fact we've got a good understanding on the pitch," added Maouassa, before leaving the final word to his keeper. "We've made it through to the quarter-finals," said Zidane. "Now let's see just how far we can go."