With only four appearances in 15 finals competitions, France can hardly be described as FIFA U-17 World Cup regulars. Yet as they showed in winning the title at Trinidad and Tobago 2001 after a 14-year absence from the competition, a lack of pedigree is no obstacle to success at this age level. That achievement, secured by a side containing the likes of Anthony Le Tallec and Florent Sinama-Pongolle, was the only occasion on which Les Bleuets, who missed out on a place at UAE 2013, have progressed beyond the quarter-final stage.
This is the first time since their tournament debut in 1987 that the French will head into the world finals in the age category as European champions. Les Bleuets put together a perfect campaign in the continental finals in Bulgaria, winning all three of their group matches without conceding a goal, beating Italy 3-0 in the quarter-finals, seeing off Belgium on penalties in the semis and sweeping Germany aside 4-1 in the final.
“This team came here to achieve a great result, but that’s not the most important thing. What counts is to play good football,” said France coach Jean-Claude Giuntini following their European title success. Should his charges reproduce the same kind of form in Chile, they will be very hard to beat. Packed with hugely promising players, Giuntini’s side bears comparison with the famous Generation of '87, a team that featured the likes of Karim Benzema, Samir Nasri and Hatem Ben Arfa and which won the continental crown in 2004.