Tafer thrilled to be back in business

Yannis Tafer lived up to his predatory reputation by marking his first appearance of the Under-19 finals with a goal against England and the France striker is now hungry for more.

France striker Yannis Tafer in Caen
France striker Yannis Tafer in Caen ©Sportsfile

After missing four games with a thigh injury Yannis Tafer made his return in style on Saturday by scoring France's only goal against England as Les Petits Bleus secured first place in UEFA European Under-19 Championship Group A.

The Olympique Lyonnais striker's celebration after his goal said it all. After he headed in a beautiful Gilles Sunu cross, he ran towards the bench to celebrate with the physical trainers who had helped him recover in time to play. "The pace of the game was a little hard for me, but otherwise it was OK," Tafer told UEFA.com. "I didn't feel any pain and it went well overall."

Tafer is bidding to become the second European champion in his family after his uncle Akim who was European light heavyweight boxing champion in the 1990s, and has faced a fight to make a mark on this tournament. While France had made light of the striker's absence, scoring four times against the Netherlands and putting five past Austria, he acknowledged his 24th career goal as a youth international had not come easy. "It was quite a difficult game against a well-organised England team," he said. "They played quite defensively which left us little space so it was hard to create openings going forward."

Having scored four times at the 2008 European U17 Championship, where France reached the final, Tafer has continued his development and generated ever more comparisons with another former Lyon striker, Real Madrid CF's Karim Benzema. The 19-year-old made seven Ligue 1 appearances last season, scoring once, and is expected to make his first-team breakthrough in the season ahead. Team-mate Gaël Kakuta writes the scouting report: "He's got it all. He can score with both feet or with his head. His runs are always good. He's really useful to the team. Everyone's happy to see him back."

Having got a taste for the tournament at last, Tafer is hungry for more and already has his eyes set on Croatia, France's next opponents. "I saw they won 5-0 against Portugal which proves that they are a quality team," he explained. "We are going to try and play our own game, as we usually do, and obviously to win the match. To start with we'll watch videos of them and try and do our homework because we don't know this team. I've never played against them."

While information about their semi-finals rivals may be thin on the ground, local support remains a major motivation for the hosts. The match against England was a sell-out and 11,000 attended their opening game against the Netherlands in Caen. "It's a real help with the home fans behind us but we mustn't get carried away," Tafer said. "Let's not talk about favourites. We got off to a good start and we're playing at home. There are still two games to go if we get to the final so we hope to win them both."