France U19 coach Gilles Eyquem reflects on a remarkable first full year as a coach in women's football and explains why the future of French women's football is brighter than ever.
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Gilles Eyquem has enjoyed a remarkable first full year as a coach in women's football, leading France to glory at the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship in Wales this summer. The 54-year-old, appointed in August 2012, reflects on that success, discusses how his side are shaping up this season and explains why the future of French women's football is brighter than ever.
UEFA.com: You have finished your first full year in women's football with a European trophy. Was it as easy as it looked in Wales?
Gilles Eyquem: Not at all. It was a very good tournament, very tough and interesting. It's true that for a first one, it was a very good experience. I must say that our girls' squads are very successful, and a lot of work is being done by the French federation to develop women's football. We have high-level infrastructure that gives us most of the girls selected in the French teams.
UEFA.com: Looking back, what are your fondest memories?
Eyquem: I think it's all about the preparation before the competition. It was an important and intense time. And then we started the competition quickly, with a difficult game against a very strong England team. We quickly understood that it would be difficult [after a 0-0 draw]. Then we had that great semi-final against Germany, like an early final. It was a very nice game, very interesting, with two very good teams trying to play their own game.
UEFA.com: How important was it for women's football in France after the relative disappointment at UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2013 in Sweden?
Eyquem: It was important. Even if the senior team had difficulty gaining reward for their performances. I don't think it will be long before [France win a senior title] because my colleague Philippe Bergeroo, who I worked with for years with boys' teams, has taken over the squad and has changed the organisation a bit, bringing some new girls in. There are already U19 girls in the senior team. I think we will work well together, and we are often in contact. I hope it will be very beneficial for the seniors and also for our U19 and U20 squads.
UEFA.com: After the success of the U17 and U19 teams, is there an opportunity for France to reap the benefits?
Eyquem: Yes. We are building on these results to develop women's football in France, and we have a lot of young girls starting to play. It's important that the grassroots are developing and that we have more players in order to develop girls' football at youth level. It is looking good, it is developing, and everyone is discovering that women's football is a breath of fresh air, with good results and a positive mindset.
UEFA.com: Finally, this season's women's U19s: You continue your defence in the elite round in a tough group against an impressive Poland crop, 2012 winners Sweden and recent finalists Romania. What do you think about the draw?
Eyquem: It will be a good elite round, staged in France – I don't know if home territory will be an advantage. We have Sweden, who should be a quality opponent. I know less about Poland and Romania, but they are also developing. I hope we will see some nice football. I think we have a good squad – almost the whole 2012 U-17 World Cup-winning squad. We played a good qualifying round and I have seen some good things. I am confident we will qualify for [the final tournament in] Norway.