In Pierre Mankowski’s own words, he is having a blast with Les Bleuets. The French tactician, who has coached his young compatriots for the last three years, gave FIFA.com the inside story on each of his team’s fixtures in the FIFA U-20 World Cup Turkey 2013, picking out the key moments during a fascinating rundown that reveals all his enthusiasm and knowledge of the game.
France 3-1 (0-0) Ghana, 21 June - 18:00, Istanbul
Lucas Digne’s long throw lets in Geoffrey Kondogbia for the opener
"Lucas [Digne]’s throw-ins are like corners, and set-pieces are a scoring opportunity in the modern game. If you tot up the number of scoring opportunities in any match, there are few and far between. Corners, on the other hand, you get lots of them and you’re immediately in front of goal. What’s more, we have so much power in this team that we have to exploit it. I often tell them: ‘Put yourselves in your opponents’ place. They’re looking at five lads over 1.90 metres tall bearing down on them, they’re going to be unnerved.’ It’s a big advantage for us, even if we haven’t scored many from set-pieces."
France 1-1 (0-0) USA, 24 June - 18:00, Istanbul
USA defended deep and didn’t press
"This match was a let-down, we should have won it. We expected them to press and they sat back. But we don’t vary our style of play to suit our opponents. We, the backroom staff, study the opposition, but we don’t overload the players with information. We do a ten-minute briefing the day before the match to give them some ideas, and that’s all we say about it. We keep drumming into them that it’s up to the opposition to adapt their game around us, certainly not the other way round. So we get used to dictating matches."
Spain 2-1 (1-0) France, 27 June - 20:00, Istanbul
Paul Pogba’s sending-off leaves a void
"We didn’t actually play that badly. In the first half we did everything right, they had more possession but that’s what their game is about. It was a very tight match but that didn’t bother me so much. Paul has a vital presence in midfield, of course he does, he galvanises us. When he is taken out of the game it leaves a void. He galvanises everyone."
France 4-1 (2-0) Turkey, 2 July - 21:00 Gaziantep
Wing-backs find their wings
"In this encounter Lucas Digne and Dimitri Foulquier finally got involved and that changed everything. In the first game they were very cautious, even though much of our offensive game depends on them getting involved. But our wingers’ first touches were poor, they tried to dribble and didn’t use the wing-backs, who didn’t push up but stayed deep, which put us on the back foot. It's all about confidence. You have to make effective decisions: if the forwards come deep looking for the ball, they shouldn’t be trying to dribble through straight away, they should be relying on the wing-backs who have made forward runs."
France 4-0 (3-0) Uzbekistan, 6 July - 18:00, Rize
Florian Thauvin converts a confidence-boosting penalty
"Our first-choice penalty-taker is Paul [Pogba], followed by Yaya [Sanogo] and after that it depends on the circumstances. Afterwards I asked Paul why he let Florian take it and he said he did it to boost his confidence, because he missed against Turkey. In the World Cup, that’s a cocky thing to do, because we can’t afford to go playing with fire. But it was a really nice gesture by his team-mates, which is also what makes them strong. I don’t know whether it enabled Florian to find his feet, I think he has grown in confidence as the competition has progressed. But it definitely helped him."
France 2-1 (1-0) Ghana, 10 July - 18:00, Bursa
Three super saves from Alphonse Areola
"We were worried when Samuel [Umtiti] was shown the red card. They were already well on top and we knew that we’d scored the second on a breakaway. There were ten minutes remaining. Alphonse [Areola] stepped up to the plate too, it has to be said. He’d had some quiet games up to that point, although he’d had a very vitalising effect on the defence. But this time he added efficiency too, he really brought out his A-game when it mattered."
France-Uruguay, Istanbul, 13 July - 21:00
Destabilising the Uruguayans is the key
"We're going to play our football. Since the end of the group stage we’ve taken risks and we’ll continue to do so. They’re so settled that it will be difficult to destabilise them with our collective play. We’ll have to mix it up, look to get crosses in, look for the spaces that you inevitably get with zonal marking systems. And then in one-on-ones, we have players who can make the difference."