By HENRY MORABANG
FRENCH coach Gilles Eyquem believes his side can go one better than at the 2014 Under-20 Women’s World Cup in Canada.
Eyquem made the comment while accompanying her team on a visit to the National Musuem at Waigani yesterday morning.
He said his team had been training hard and preparing well for the game against Japan tonight at Sir John Guise Stadium.
“My players have done a lot of physical training and are taking it easy for the next game against Japan tomorrow (today).”
He said the four days of rest would be difficult for the girls but he was confident they would be ready for the big game.
“Japan is a strong team and we will not take them lightly as we also want to play in the final,” Euquem said.
The last time France played in the semi-final was in 2014 in Canada where they finished third.
Eyquem said they would have be strong in defence and fight to score more goals against Japan to gain a positive result.
France’s impressive win over Germany was underpinned by their defensive resilience, as well as an excellent display between the posts by player-of-the match Mylene Chavas.
France have lost against the eventual champions in their last four U20 Women’s World Cup campaigns.
The coach said France reaching the last four was down in no small part to the efforts of captain Delphine Cascarino.
In the group phase, the gifted midfielder contributed a goal against Ghana and an assist against New Zealand and was named the player-of-the-match in two of France’s four games.
She also fired her team into the semi-finals with a wonderful goal against Germany.
Japan’s coach Asako Takakura will have more than a possible final appearance in her sights.
After all, few people have a better insight into the way these youth tournaments can help when working with a senior national side than she does.
“The main advantage of looking after players from U17 level onwards is that you can observe their development extremely well,” she said.
“For me, winning the Fifa U17 Women’s World Cup was a kind of springboard to the next level,” Takakurasaid.
“After the tournament, I’ll decide which players are good enough to progress to the first team.
“Several of them are capable of taking that step.”
Takakura’s team have been in top form for much of their journey to the semi-finals in PNG, with their 6-0 win over 2014 finalists Nigeria sending a particularly resounding message to the rest of the field.
While their euphoria was briefly dampened by a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Spain, comfortable victories over Canada (5-0) and Brazil (3-1) mean Japan are now ready to try and reach their first U20 Women’s World Cup final.
“Although I’m satisfied with my team’s performances, I think all of the players could still improve further,” the coach said.
“We’ve been getting better and better from one game to the next at this tournament so far, so I think we’ll be even stronger in the semi-final.
“France are a world-class side who are physically, technically and mentally very tough.
“It’ll be a difficult match, but I’m looking forward to it,” Takakura concluded.
Both sides are in the semi-finals for just the second time.
Four years ago, Japan were beaten 3-0 on home soil by Germany and eventually finished third.
Two years later, France also took the last place on the podium after beating North Korea 3-2 in the play-off for third-place following a 2-1 semi-final loss to Germany.
Despite defending champions Germany’s elimination, this year’s semi-final line-up still includes two former winners.
USA, victorious over bitter rivals Mexico in the quarterfinals, are fiercely determined to lift the trophy for a fourth time, while North Korea are seeking a second tournament triumph.
By HENRY MORABANG