- Grace Geyoro struggled to enjoy France's U-17 victory in 2012
- The midfielder soared with the U-20s in 2016, despite their final loss
- She is now one of the senior team's biggest hopes for France 2019
The date is 13 October 2012 and France are celebrating their triumph at the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in Azerbaijan. Fresh from edging Korea DPR on penalties, the victors savour the euphoria in Baku as they lift the trophy. The mood in the squad is jubilant – save for the lone figure of Grace Geyoro, who watches her team-mates with a profound sense of sadness and frustration.
The young midfielder had not played a single minute during the tournament, and she returned home with her morale in tatters and confidence broken. "I was at rock bottom," she tells FIFA.com. "But thanks to my loved ones, my team-mates and the coaching staff at Clairefontaine, I was able to get my confidence back and return to the highest level. It's part of my history now and that episode helped me reach the level I'm at today."
Four years later, in Papua New Guinea, France contested another final, losing 3-1 to old rivals Korea DPR at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup. Before the day was out, peals of laughter could be heard above the swimming pool of the hotel where Les Bleuettes were staying – and Geyoro was giggling as loud as anyone. While most of the players digested the defeat in their rooms, a small group spent their last few hours together gripped by a paradoxical sense of joy.
"We needed to release the pressure," says Geyoro, a starter this time around and one of France's most impressive performers. "We'd been very focused throughout the competition. Despite the loss, we had no real regrets because we knew we'd given everything. I'd just turned 19 and felt like my whole life was in front of me.
"That World Cup was like a trigger," she adds. "It made me realise that I wanted to improve and go as far as possible." It also proved a turning point in the domestic sphere, with her club side Paris Saint-Germain noting that their young prospect had stepped up to a new level. This time, Geyoro returned to France with the promise of a contract extension and a newfound status in the Paris hierarchy.
France's then senior coach Olivier Echouafni had been paying close attention as well. Following Geyoro's displays on the other side of the planet, he called her up for the first time in January 2017. After a promising outing from the bench in a 2-0 friendly win against South Africa, she started France's following game as they saw off England 2-1.
Several months later, Geyoro stood out as one of the few positives for Les Bleues during their disappointing campaign at UEFA Women's EURO 2017. Geyoro and Co exited in the quarter-finals following a 1-0 loss to England, and the early elimination spelled the end of Echouafni's reign.
The France team was therefore in serious need of attention when Corinne Diacre took the reins at the end of August last year. The new coach faced the equivalent of a building site, but she had no intention of knocking down the new supporting wall in midfield. "When I hear left and right that I represent the future of the France team, it's the biggest compliment anyone could pay me," says Geyoro, voted the best young player in France's top flight last season.
Geyoro's rapid progress in the senior side was accelerated by the international retirement of Camille Abily, and she symbolises a changing of the guard. While Abily's generation fell short of a major trophy, the new crop hope to clinch victory at the FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019™ after shining at youth level. And having felt misery amid triumph in 2012, and joy amid defeat in 2016, Geyoro is now desperate to savour both team success and personal fulfilment.
0 – Although blessed with excellent shooting ability, Grace Geyoro is still waiting for her first goal with the France team after 15 appearances. "It's the part of my game I want to improve between now and the World Cup," she says, having finally opened her account for PSG at the weekend, scoring a double that sealed their berth in the UEFA Women's Champions League next season. "I want to be more decisive."