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Fofana banks on France support

A large crowd helped France make a winning start in Group A, and captain Gueïda Fofana is convinced playing at home will "be a very big advantage" as the hosts look to build on that victory.

Gueïda Fofana (centre) celebrates after forcing a Netherlands own goal
Gueïda Fofana (centre) celebrates after forcing a Netherlands own goal ©Sportsfile

Gueïda Fofana gave yet another display of the leadership qualities which have made him France captain after the UEFA European Under-19 Championship hosts opened the campaign an impressive 4-1 win against the Netherlands, calling for his team-mates to keep their focus rather than basking in the victory.

A ferocious competitor in the heart of midfield, Fofana – who has worn the captain's armband since U17 level – showed plenty of the experience gained in more than 50 appearances for his country at various age levels as he looked back with satisfaction and forward with anticipation. "The first match was a big success," he told UEFA.com. "We prepared very well for it, got the three points and we're pleased with ourselves. On Wednesday people might think it'll be an easy game against Austria, but it's going to be even harder. We're going to have to rise to the challenge technically, and we hope to be able to do it physically."

Having made 30 appearances in Ligue 2 for Le Havre AC in 2009/10, Fofana should have no problems with the latter, a key element in Les Bleus' opening success. "We worked very well physically," he said. "In that sense we were better than them; they got tired quickly, had to chase the ball a lot and we defended very, very well. We were very compact so it was hard for them to go forward and they didn't get many chances to score."

Defensive duties never neglected, Fofana was just as impressive bringing the ball forward, showcasing dribbling skills on a par with team-mate Gaël Kakuta. Such a foray led to France's third goal, as he explained: "I beat the defender on the wing, I was about to cross and saw Cédric [Bakumba] hanging back so I crossed and then the defender scored an own goal. It's just part of the game; if Cédric had scored it would have been just as beautiful."

With more than 11,000 fans at the Stade Michel-d'Ornano France enjoyed vocal backing, particularly Fofana – who plays his club football less than 50km from Caen – and the France captain is understandably keen for that level of support to continue. "There were more than 60 people there in the stands just to see me," he said. "It's good to play near where I'm from. It makes it possible for my family to see me play with the national team, which they never had before. [Playing at home] is definitely going to be an advantage, a very big advantage. The number of spectators motivated us even more." Austria might be relieved to know Flers' Stade du Hazé, venue for the next fixture, has a maximum capacity of 3,500.