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Benzia takes France into finals again

Yassine Benzia was the central figure as two-time champions France beat hosts Austria on the last day to qualify for the final tournament again with a perfect Group 1 record.

France celebrate after sealing a finals place
France celebrate after sealing a finals place ©Josef Steindl

France came through a final-day meeting against Austria to top UEFA European Under-19 Championship elite round Group 1 thanks to a 1-0 victory against the section hosts.

The pair had recorded wins against both Sweden and Bosnia and Herzegovina to set up their matchday three showdown in Traiskirchen, with Austria needing only a point thanks to their superior goal difference. They were denied that, however, Yassine Benzia capitalising on a defensive error to score what proved to be the only goal in the 28th minute, and take France – champions in 2005 and 2010 – into the finals again.

"We expected a hard game, and it was," said their coach Francis Smerecki. "Both teams deserved to go to the finals in Lithuania. We were strong at the back and took advantage of Austria's only mistake to score the winning goal. At the end we had a lot of good scoring chances, but we missed them, so it was close right until the final whistle. I'm very proud of my team and we're very happy to have qualified for the championships."

His side had opened their campaign with a 3-0 defeat of Sweden, Adrian Horoun scoring twice, before a 1-0 defeat of Bosnia and Herzegovina achieved thanks to a 25th-minute penalty from Olympique Lyonnais striker Benzia.

Austria had been even more impressive, putting six past Bosnia and Herzegovina in their first game and three – all from Marcel Sabitzer – past Sweden, all without reply. When it mattered most, however, it was France who held their nerve.