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Blin tells victorious France to keep focused

France's match winner against Austria, Alexis Blin, recognises Les Bleuets still have plenty to work on, telling UEFA.com: "We've got to learn to keep the ball better."

France's Alexis Blin after scoring the only goal against Austria
France's Alexis Blin after scoring the only goal against Austria ©Sportsfile

France made an ideal start to Group A of the UEFA European Under-19 Championship with a 1-0 win over Austria, but the man who decided that match, Alexis Blin, told UEFA.com that Les Bleuets still have plenty of margin for improvement.

Blin's flicked header was enough to make it four wins in a row for France since the start of the elite round. That is a streak the Toulouse FC midfielder hopes will extend to seven games in total, but he was not getting carried away; there were as many shadows as there was light in France's winning start.

"It was a very important win against a very strong Austrian side," Blin said. "We played well, both on a mental and physical level, but we've still got to improve in the way we control possession and try to keep the ball more in our next matches."

The lack of such composure nearly saw Patrick Gonfalone's men come unstuck in Katerini. Despite being reduced to ten men following the dismissal of Petar Gluhakovic, a late Austrian rally nearly produced an equaliser.

"The way we played at the end of this game is something that's going to help us moving forward – we've got to learn to keep hold of the ball better," Blin admitted. "Austria came back at us, but we were mentally strong and solid at the back and our goalkeeper made some decisive saves. We deserved this win for the chances that we created."

Those final minutes aside, France rarely looked in too much danger of conceding. Their real nous was at the other end of the field – something Austria coach Hermann Stadler admitted had made the difference between the two sides.

Intuitive interplay from Kingsley Coman and Gnaly Cornet often had the Austrian defence bewitched. Both combined close control with bursts of pace which, together with their unpredictability, helped France forge 12 attempts on goal, five of which hit the target. One, crucially, found the back of the net.

Highlights: Austria 0-1 France

"The coach asks us to move around a lot and switch positions freely," explained Blin. "There's always a lot of movement and this helps us to find our attackers and create these gaps. I felt really good tonight. I scored, but even if it had been somebody else, it's always for the group. We were all combative and all very present and that's what counts."

France's next challenge comes against Ukraine in Larissa on Thursday. Another win would take the 2013 runners-up into the semi-finals with a game to spare, but there will be no under-estimating a Ukrainian side who were beaten by hosts Greece on Monday.

"We don't have any idea who our strongest opponents will be because all we're focusing on is winning the group and we take each team as they come," Blin said. "We've just faced a great Austrian side, but now we've won this one and we really want to continue this adventure.

"Our objective is to put together a run of wins and we've taken a first step towards qualifying. Now we're in a relaxed, serene mood going into our next game."