Olmeta and France set for U17 EURO final against Netherlands
Tuesday, May 31, 2022
France goalkeeper Lisandru Olmeta will be full of confidence if Wednesday's decider goes to penalties after the double shoot-out successes that have taken his team into the final.
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For France's Lisandru Olmeta, membership of the goalkeepers' union only goes so far as he prepares to backstop his country's bid to claim the 2022 UEFA European Under-17 Championship crown in Wednesday's final in Israel.
France owe their opportunity to contest the continental U17 title against defending champions the Netherlands thanks in part to Olmeta's saves in their shoot-out victories against Germany in the quarter-final and Portugal in the last four on Sunday.
José Alcocer's team have also had that invaluable commodity of good fortune, notably against Portugal when, needing to score to keep his side in the tie, France captain Mathys Tel's penalty ricocheted off the crossbar and goalkeeper Diogo Fernandes' back before crossing the line.
"As I was watching it, I was a little bit afraid, but he scored because it's destiny," Olmeta told UEFA.com in the team's Ramat Gan basecamp. "After that penalty, I knew we were going to win because luck was on our side."
"It must have been tough for the goalkeeper. If I had been in his place, it would have been very difficult for me because if it doesn't touch his back and Mathys misses the penalty, it's all over. But I'm not going to put myself in his position, because I'm in the final."
The son of UEFA Champions League runner-up and former Marseille and Lyon No1 Pascal, goalkeeping is in Olmeta's genes. But keeping cool in the heat of a penalty shoot-out, he says, comes from practice.
"I'm happy when it goes to penalties. I work a lot on them, I think it's my area and I'm not bad at it. I can't say I'm the hero, because if the others don't score, I can stop penalties, but we can't win. The pressure is on the taker. If he misses, then it costs his team. If I stop it, it's a bonus.
"I do analyse penalty takers, but it's also about how I feel out there on the pitch. I do try and catch their eye, and I think that it puts them off and it gets me into it."
Olmeta's focus enabled him to stop Tom Bischof's penalty against Germany and throw his team, who had missed their first two from the spot, a lifeline they gleefully seized. In the semi-final, he kept out Portugal's sixth kick to provide El Chadaille Bitshiabu with the chance to take France into the final against a Dutch side who have won the last two U17 titles.
"We weren't being talked about, we weren't among the favourites before the tournament," said Olmeta, who plays his club football at Monaco. "But right from the start, I had confidence in the team; we've got a very good squad."
"Mentally I prepared myself to be in this position and so did the others, we didn't see ourselves stopping before this. We expected to get this far. We played big nations in the quarters and semis. We knocked out Germany — the favourites — and now we're going for the win."