- France’s U-17s are enjoying life in Brazil
- Les Bleuets secured their second win at the FIFA U-17 World Cup
- Kalimuendo-Muinga and Pembele demonstrated some Brazilian-style flair
The French have a bit of a soft spot for Brazil. It was, after all, against A Seleçao that Les Bleus put in two of their greatest-ever FIFA World Cup™ performances: in the 1998 final, of course, but also in the quarter-final at Germany 2006.
“Sadly, I wasn’t born when we won our first World Cup at home,” France U-17s forward Arnaud Kalimuendo-Muinga told FIFA.com. “For the quarter-final in 2006, I was just four years old, but I obviously know all about it: Thierry Henry’s goal, Zinedine Zidane’s incredible game and all that. Brazil inspires us!”
On Wednesday, at the FIFA U-17 World Cup™, France’s opponents were not Brazilian, but Korean. But playing in the land of legends like Pele, Zico and Garrincha has clearly given Jean-Claude Giuntini’s players the desire to excel.
“If you love football, you love Brazil,” confirmed the Parisian, who lists Ronaldo, Neymar and Ronaldinho as his three favourite players. “A World Cup is pretty motivating, but the fact it’s taking place here makes it even more appealing. In this country, football is absolutely everywhere, on every street corner, the subject of every conversation. There’s no doubt that we really want to do well here!”
France’s No7 certainly impressed in their 3-1 victory over Korea Republic on Wednesday. With his dribbling skills, wide range of passing and intelligent runs, Kalimuendo-Muinga put on quite a show for fans in Goiania, and sent Les Bleuets on their way in the 17th minute by opening the scoring with a smart finish. Three minutes before half-time, full-back Timothee Pembele, who recorded a Brazilian-like performance himself, put the French in the driving seat.
Most football fans are aware of the longstanding tradition of attacking wing-backs in Brazil, from Nilton Santos to Roberto Carlos and Junior, who all loved to go on marauding runs down the flank, creating havoc just like real forwards. Judging by his eye-catching goal and his constant attempts to support his team-mates on the wing, Pembele may be a little Brazilian at heart.
“I love pushing up, and it probably won’t come as a surprise to you that my role models are Dani Ales and Marcelo – they never hesitate to get forward,” explained the attack-minded No3. His coach knows this only too well: “Timothee, not too far up!” Giuntini was heard to shout several times during the match. “It doesn’t frustrate me at all,” said Pembele. “It’s sound advice, and it’s for the good of the team. I respect our coach; he’s the boss.”
He concluded: “I’m happy with the way I played. I’m just disappointed we let in a goal at the end of the match. It spoiled things a little bit. But what counts is that we’re into the knockout stage.” France can now go into their final Group C match against Haiti with no pressure on their shoulders, and perhaps even add to their tally of Brazilian-style goals in the process.