France's Sarah Bouhaddi gives an insight into her goalkeeping philosophy, the team's evolution and how being stuck in a cable car above lions did not worry Les Bleues.
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It takes some goalkeeper to keep Céline Deville on the bench for club and country, but France and Olympique Lyonnais custodian Sarah Bouhaddi does just that.
After 69 caps, 26-year-old Bouhaddi talks like she plays: 100% focused. She spoke to UEFA.com about her competitors in goal, especially Deville, her ex-Lyon club-mate who will play for FCF Juvisy Essonne next season. The goalkeeper who suffered a cruciate ligament injury the day before the Finland 2009 quarter-final against the Netherlands also explains the psychology behind the role of goalkeeper and the evolution of her team in the last four years, plus their traumatic zoo visit in the run-up to Monday's quarter-final with Denmark.
UEFA.com: What is the role of goalkeeper and how has it evolved?
Sarah Bouhaddi: It's difficult to describe it. Before, the goalkeeper was asked to stop shots. Today, she's asked to command her defence, to take care of the goal, to take care of the penalty area, to be good with the ball at her feet. I like it and I like the fact that it's evolving. We see more and more specialist coaches; they train the goalkeepers at least 20, 25 minutes before the other players start. I think it's important to have that coach because being a goalkeeper is different. It's important that someone who knows this role follows you.
UEFA.com: Has France coach Bruno Bini established a clear hierarchy between the goalkeepers?
Bouhaddi: He didn't talk to the three of us [including Karima Benameur] to tell us who was No1, No2 ... But we're not stupid: I played the whole season for Lyon while Céline played only a few games, which might not be enough for her to push for the No1 spot. I think it's clear in our heads. Céline played well against England and if I don't perform, there are other good goalkeepers. It also shows that the squad is made of 23 players. No substitutes are left behind.
UEFA.com: When the action is on the other side, what do you do and how do you keep your focus?
Bouhaddi: I'm not going to say I'm a spectator but I watch closely and when there's a goal for us, I'm really happy. And when it goes wide, it's frustrating. I shouldn't lose my concentration because the game can come to you quickly. I speak a lot to my defenders even when the ball is on the other side. When they need to reposition, I talk a lot to stay in the game. I work a lot on that because ten years ago, I was told concentration was my problem. I've worked on that aspect.
UEFA.com: How do you feel when you concede a goal?
Bouhaddi: I'm not traumatised. Being a goalkeeper, you will concede goals. It's impossible to stop everything, even though we do our best. But I don't feel the need to hire a psychologist or a mental coach to work on that. At the time, it's frustrating, especially if it comes from an individual mistake. That's where you see if you're strong because we can bypass it and refocus quickly. If I make a mistake that causes a goal, I will think about it for two minutes but I manage to refocus on the game.
I'm going to think about it for one or two days, but 24 hours before the next match I try to forget; I work on things I know how to do at training. I think I've grown. Before, it affected me more. When I started with France, I was 17. Nine years on, I've played a lot of high profile games, conceded a lot of goals and made mistakes. But I think that every mistake has allowed me to grow and evolve as a football player. I try not to make the same mistakes; it's important.
UEFA.com: You were eliminated in the quarter-finals in 2009 and finished fourth at the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup and 2012 Olympics. Does it push you to do better?
Bouhaddi: At the EURO, no one was expecting us to do anything. We were building a team, and it was the beginning of an adventure. I didn't play the World Cup but according to what I heard and saw, it was a big surprise to see France have such a great competition. At the Olympics, we had the necessary quality but some individual errors caused our exit. I think it helped the team. Today, we have more confidence. If we concede a goal, we're not going to give up and we'll refocus on our goal. I think that these three steps helped us grow.
UEFA.com: On Saturday, France visited Kolmården Zoo and got stuck in the cable cars over the lions and bears because of a computer breakdown. What did you do?
Bouhaddi: It's true, we got stuck for about one hour. I was with Camille Catala, Camille Abily and some people from the staff. To pass the time, we laughed and we sang. The other girls who were stuck sang as well. It wasn't long in the end.