Florent Sinama-Pongolle believes he can help fire France to UEFA European Under-21 Championship glory, starting with Portugal in Braga tonight.
France striker Florent Sinama-Pongolle believes he can be the man to shoot France to UEFA European Under-21 Championship glory.
As befitting someone who has already played in a UEFA Champions League-winning squad with Liverpool FC, the 21-year-old has designs on being top scorer at the finals in Portugal, starting with tonight's tough opener against the host nation. "I have a lot of ambition, I love competition and I love a challenge," said Sinama-Pongolle. "If I can score the goals for the team then I would say why not?"
One to watch ever since his breakthrough at Le Havre AC and his 12-goal haul for Les Bleuets in their run to the final of the 2001 UEFA European Under-16 Championship, Sinama-Pongolle continued his football development last season on loan at Blackburn Rovers FC. He had spent the previous two campaigns as a regular in the Liverpool first-team picture. He will hope to consolidate his progress in 2006/07, but first is the small matter of playing his part for France.
"We haven't been to the U21 finals for a long time and of course for us it is a good opportunity to show how good we are because it is really a big competition," he said. "There are a lot of big teams and we just hope we can win the championship.” Sinama-Pongolle and his team-mates have been watching videos of their first opponents and identified "good opportunities to cause them a lot of problems at the back". That is not to say, however, that he is underestimating a team who will play in front of a 30,000 sell-out crowd at the Estádio Municipal de Braga.
'Nothing is impossible'
He said: "The opening game will be the hardest for us. It is like playing away, playing Portugal in Portugal. But for every ambitious player it really is a great game to play in and we are looking forward to it. Every game is going to be tough, all eight teams in this tournament are good and are going to challenge. The first game is going to be tough, but nothing is impossible. We are positive, we want to win the first game."
To do that, Sinama-Pongolle is well aware his team will need to stop the talismanic Ricardo Quaresma. "We know what type of player he is. If we allow him to be confident, and if his confidence gets really high it is going to be difficult to deal with him, so we will try and close him down very quickly and apply pressure from the kick-off." Whether he starts tonight, or comes off the bench, Portugal may well be advised to do just the same where Sinama-Pongolle is concerned.