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France strike late to break Greek hearts

France 1-0 Greece
Greece head for home after a last-gasp strike from France substitute Jordan Rambaud in Sozopol, with Russia taking second spot in Group C.

France celebrate Jordan Rambaud's stoppage-time winner
France celebrate Jordan Rambaud's stoppage-time winner ©LAP.bg

Jordan Rambaud scores in fourth minute of added time to seal France's third Group C win
Seconds away from point that would have put them through, Greece eliminated instead
Russia, 2-0 victors versus Scotland, advance at expense of Vassilis Georgopoulos's team
France to meet Group D runners-up Italy in Saturday's quarter-finals

Agonisingly close to clinching the Group C point that would have taken them into the last eight, Greece instead had their campaign ended by a late effort from France substitute Jordan Rambaud.

In a game short on intensity until the finish, France struck at the death to claim a 1-0 victory over a Greece side moments away from reaching the UEFA European Under-17 Championship quarter-finals. Russia thus progressed at the Greeks' expense, while Jean-Claude Giuntini's charges secured a third Group C win without conceding a goal.

Showing composure and control from back to front, epitomised by captain Mamadou Doucoure in defence and languid winger Jeff Reine Adélaïde, France played eye-catching football but took time to find a cutting edge. Indeed, though Giuntini's team enjoyed first-period half-chances through Maxime Pelican and Reine Adélaïde, Greece carried the greater threat thanks to Vangelis Pavlidis.

An intelligent and spiky attacking spearhead, Pavlidis, on target in two games already, played in skipper Dimitris Limnios to rifle into the side netting and created an even better opportunity soon after. But after he cleverly diverted a high ball into the path of Ioannis Tsingos, the latter wasted his country's best chance by firing tamely at keeper Luca Zidane.

The second period began in similar fashion, with neat football from France but the clearest opening falling to Greece: Pavlidis latching onto Limnios's pinpoint pass yet losing out in a one-on-one with Zidane. It would prove decisive, the match swinging away from Vassilis Georgopoulos's charges as they appeared happy to settle for a draw.

Buoyed by an injection of pace and trickery down the left from Bilal Boutobba, France continued to chase the goal that would earn them a perfect group-stage record. And though Nicolas Janvier's drive was saved by Marios Siampanis in the 80th minute, there was still time for Rambaud to wriggle free in the six-metre box and poke in off the far post – so drawing a line under Greece's stay in Bulgaria and sending Russia, 2-0 victors over Scotland, into the last eight.

 Jean-Claude Giuntini, France coach
Our objective was to finish in first place, but another main goal was to get the attitude right, not to get too nervous and to keep a cool head. We’ve no preference who we face in the quarter-finals, every opponent is tough. The Netherlands, Italy and England are all very strong and are among the favourites to win the competition. In the days before our quarter-final we have to stay very focused and must pay particular attention to our recovery, as we know we'll face a very difficult match. We were very keen not to pick up injuries today and fortunately that was the case.

Vassilis Georgopoulos, Greece coach
It's so hard to take, the way we lost the match, but unfortunately that's football – these things happen. The players' minds were a bit tired and that's why we conceded so late on. We were trying to hold out for the draw but lost concentration just for a moment. We had some good chances, particularly through Pavlidis, but couldn't put them away. It has been a very good tournament with some top-quality teams. France, for instance, are an excellent team and I'm sure they'll reach at least the semi-finals.