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France oust England to make finals

France and England entered matchday three with six points each but it was the French hosts who came out on top in Group 7 to advance to the July finals in Greece.

Kingsley Coman scored twice in France's opening win against Azerbaijan
Kingsley Coman scored twice in France's opening win against Azerbaijan ©AFP/Getty Images

France came out on top in a last-day showdown with England to record a maximum points' tally in elite round Group 7 and guarantee their place in July's UEFA European Under-19 Championship in Greece.

The French hosts and their English counterparts went into matchday three with six points apiece but it was Patrick Gonfalone's men who took the initiative through Sehrou Guirassy's 31st-minute opener. Gnaly Cornet doubled the advantage five minutes after the restart and, despite Patrick Roberts finding the net with ten minutes left, Les Bleuets hung on to win the section staged in north-west France.

The home nation had started in impressive fashion when Kingsley Coman scored twice in a 2-0 victory against Azerbaijan last Thursday, while England were pushed much closer by Denmark. Both sides finished with ten men but Ashley Smith-Brown's 82nd-minute strike clinched a 3-2 English success.

The French had less trouble against the Danes, matching their opening-day scoreline courtesy of a Guirassy double, although the Scandinavian team again had a player sent off. In Saturday's other game Smith-Brown got the only goal as Sean O'Driscoll's charges edged out Azerbaijan to set up today's head-to-head with France, which was lost 2-1. Denmark came third after seeing off the bottom-ranked Azeris 3-0.

"We've won it in 2000, 2005 and 2010, so yes, our objective will be to be up there with the best," said France's 60-year-old coach Gonfalone. "During this week I have seen my players grow on and off of the pitch, they are a great group of friends, and the spirit was excellent. It is so rewarding to be able to work with such talented young players. I am very lucky. Now we will compete to go as far as possible."

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