“We learn!”, summarized Thierry Henry after the heavy setback of the France Espoirs team against South Korea (0-3), Monday evening in Le Havre. A follower of the Japanese proverb believing that we learn more in defeat than in victory, the French coach experienced his first failures at the head of the Bleuets during this November rally. Dominated in Austria (0-2) on Friday, in a qualifying match for Euro 2025, Rayan Cherki and his teammates did not do better yesterday in a friendly against the South Koreans, displaying quite glaring defensive shortcomings. “We can’t afford to concede goals like that. The second and third are quite comical,” regretted the coach. “Once again we gave away goals, even if the free kick was still good, the other two goals were avoidable.”
Appointed at the end of August, Henry had a dream start on the bench, with four convincing successes in September and October. Against Denmark (4-1), Slovenia (4-0) and Cyprus (9-0), the offensive players (Cherki, Barcola, Wahi, Kalimuendo, etc.) expressed all their potential to mask the deficiencies of the collective game, interviews in Bosnia (2-1 victory on October 13) and displayed in broad daylight this week. Aligning his 4-4-2 diamond in Austria, the new boss of the Espoirs attempted, without success, a 3-5-2 with Bradley Barcola left piston against the South Koreans. After pointing out a lack of “desire” and a “not great manner” four days ago, he judged “a horrible result” last night.
“There is something in football called being realistic,” summed up the 46-year-old technician at the final whistle. When you create so many chances and you don't put them away, you give the opposing team the opportunity to punish you." Where the French attack had shone during the last outings, this time it faltered in the last gesture. Like Elye Wahi, Rayan Cherki, Arnaud Kalimuendo and Mathys Tel, very discreet despite their significant playing time in the two matches. “Our performance was disappointing, both offensively and defensively. We will have to question ourselves, conceded the Lyonnais, the real base man in Henry's system. “I don’t know if it’s learning. I think we have enough matches to be able to avoid this kind of defeat and goal. In the future, we will have to play with more desire and aggressiveness to win matches.”
The euphoria of the start of the mandate having subsided, this failed rally acts as a booster shot for Henry's Bleuets, who, this time, accumulated problems to finally suffer two defeats without scoring (a first in the 21st century according to Opta) . Orphaned by its captain Warren Zaire-Emery, promoted to the A, the U21 team lost Johann Lepenant to injury on Friday, before seeing its goalkeeper Guillaume Restes go through his match in Le Havre, this Monday. In a state of grace upon his arrival in the selection, at the same time as his coach, the Toulouse goalkeeper symbolized the sudden drop in performance of his team. The 18-year-old goalkeeper, far from being imperial in Austria, made errors on the last two goals scored by South Korea. “Unfortunately, for a goalkeeper, the mistake leads to the goal,” reassured Henry. It happens, it’s simply learning. Guillaume is strong enough to get back into the swing of things, and he will make other mistakes.”
Armband around his arm, Remains will not have good memories of this month of November in Blue but will undoubtedly use it to bounce back and progress. Just like the Bleuets collective, who will only meet next March to prepare for the summer of the Olympic Games. The list of 23 will evolve since players born in 2001 (U23) may be called up for the tournament in Paris. “Now we will have to recover, get through the year. We will certainly have a completely different eleven. We'll see who comes back,” warned “Titi” for whom the adventure really begins now. Sylvain Ripoll's successor rode the wave of change to perform well from the start but the wind quickly died down. It is up to the legend of the Blues to learn the necessary lessons during this long period without a match, before the big objective of the Games at home.