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Hunou has faith in 'sharper' France

Goalscoring midfielder Adrien Hunou believes France are "in much better shape and can have confidence" as they prepare to take on Spain in the second semi-final.

France's Adrien Hunou (right) has formed a potent partnership with Adrien Rabiot (left)
France's Adrien Hunou (right) has formed a potent partnership with Adrien Rabiot (left) ©Sportsfile

Adrien Hunou believes France have "raised our level" as they go into the UEFA European Under-19 Championship semi-final against Spain full of confidence.

The Stade Rennais FC midfielder scored for the second successive game in the final Group B fixture against Serbia and, though that was cancelled out by Marko Pavlovski's late equaliser that left his side second in the final standings, Hunou still found plenty of cause for optimism. "Since the first match we've raised our level a lot," he told UEFA.com. "We're a lot sharper and physically we're in much better shape, so we can have confidence going into Monday's semi-final."

France's latest work-out brought them into direct opposition with a Serbia outfit Hunou described as "a good team", adding: "They sat back and waited for us to play. When they won the ball they broke very quickly and gave us a few problems. They got an equaliser and they deserved a draw. Our aim was to get to the semi-final and we've done that; now we can start looking ahead."

Next for France are a Spain team who won all three Group A games and are sure to pay particular attention to Hunou, whose keen eye for goal has been noted at the finals. "I've scored four goals this season now: two in the elite round and two here," he said. "It's a good feeling but what's important is the collective. It's important we continue to improve step by step. I have to support the attack and score goals, because that's how you win games, but we also have to remember our defensive shape and work."

Hunou has formed a potent partnership with Paris Saint-Germain FC midfielder Adrien Rabiot in the heart of the French midfield and, with Larry Azouni occupying a deeper role, it has left the pair with the freedom to push forward. "I work well with Adrien; we've played together a few times for France and our understanding is getting better all the time," Hunou said. "I'm probably the more offensive player but sometimes the coach asks me not to commit too much to attack; to alternate [with Rabiot] between attack and defence with one going forward and one sitting back, so I try to stick to that.

"I prefer to play a bit further forward because that gives you more freedom," added Hunou. "I like to be at the heart of the game, push on and ask for the ball in attacking positions. I also like to get goals and go forward."

Those attributes should help the 19-year-old as he seeks to catch the eye of new Rennes coach Philippe Montanier and make the first-team breakthrough next season. "Things have changed a lot at Rennes with the new coach but I think they'll still have confidence in youth," he said. "If I continue on the same path, I can have confidence for the new season. I'll give everything to play in Ligue 1."

The more immediate objective is the semi-final and, while admitting he had not yet watched any of Spain's group games – "We've only been worrying about ourselves so far" – Hunou has no doubts France will be ready. "In a semi-final, everything is possible but we'll be giving our all. We have to be prepared for all eventualities because anything can happen."