• Six months to the day before the kick off of the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament
  • Interview with Sylvain Ripoll, coach of the France Espoirs team
  • “I am part of a generation that dreamed of the Olympic Games”

This Friday, January 22, marks the six months to the day before the kickoff of the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament. On this occasion, the French team will make its comeback on the Olympic stage, 25 years after the quarter-final won at the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996.

How to explain such a long absence ofTricolor on the Olympic stage? “I couldn’t tell you exactly why, since I wasn’t there,” replies Sylvain Ripoll, coach of the France Espoir team since 2017. “Qualifying for such a prestigious competition is always an objective for a federation “It seems that we have had little success in recent years. In any case, we are very happy to find the French team in a big tournament like the Olympics”, rejoices the 49-year-old technician.

“I am part of a generation who dreamed of the Olympic Games and who always have eyes that shine when we talk about them,” says the man who was almost 13 years old when the Blues won gold in Los Angeles 1984. “And I think it’s the same with my players,” he adds. “It generates so many memories and great moments that it will necessarily be an honor to participate in it.”

The France football team pictured wearing their gold medals
© Getty Images

EURO time

For the time being, it is still too early to plan for Tokyo with the deadlines looming on the horizon, for the Hopes as for the A. “There will be the EURO just before (11 June – 11 July) the Olympic Tournament (22 July – 7 August). The two events will follow one another. Before that, we have qualified for the EURO Espoirs 2021 which starts in March in Hungary and which will end in June! So the best thing is to take the events in order, “explains Ripoll.

Logically, the coach has therefore postponed his reflection on the three players over 23 years old that he will have the opportunity to include in his group, as stipulated in the regulations of the men’s tournament. “The priority, and it is logical, it will always be given to the France A team”, explains the coach who was nevertheless sensitive to the exit of Kylian Mbappé, who had not hidden his Olympic desires. “We can only rejoice in France to have a player of the caliber of Mbappé who thinks this way.”

This insatiable talent scout closely follows a good sixty players, including twenty who play abroad. He works closely with the coach of the world champions, Didier Deschamps, who is always looking for new faces to boost his squad. “With Didier, there is a lot of discussion on the potential of players who are in Espoirs and who can claim the A. Integrating the France A team requires a lot of consistency at the highest level, while for the Espoirs it can go much faster, “he summarizes.

Golden generation?

“Didier and his staff are very attentive to the Hopes and watch a lot of matches. We talk a lot about the attitude, the investment and the potential of the players”, explains the one for whom seeing a Hopes being called up for selection is always a source of pride . He also meets regularly with the selectors of the youth teams to “outclass” the earliest.

If we add to this the derogation which allows the inclusion of the 1997 generation which was eligible last summer, the choice will be particularly wide for the French Olympic team when drawing up the final list. But Ripoll already has something to be satisfied with with his current group. “This is the second generation that I have in my hands since my arrival four years ago. Beyond being talented, which has been the case for many years in France where we have an enormous reservoir, I finds it very serious, very involved. For the moment, I feel my players very focused on their objectives. I hope that will remain the case “, he announces while specifying that the objective was not to line up the prestigious names for Tokyo.

“There are a lot of criteria that come into play to make a roster for a tournament like this. There are performances of course, but the priority is to make the best group possible, which doesn’t always mean that we will only take the best players. We must carefully study the complementarity and the complicity between the players, “he concludes.

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