with Sylvain Ripoll, France has found Hopefuls

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Sylvain Ripoll, coach of the France Espoirs team
Sylvain Ripoll, coach of the France Espoirs team MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

First there was the qualification for Euro 2019. A first since 2006. And now, there is this ticket for the Olympic Games 2020, in Tokyo, won Monday, June 24, after the third match of the chicken phase of this same Euro. Another first. For twenty-three years this one, the last participation in the Olympic tournament dating back to 1996, in Atlanta. With these two "sesames", Sylvain Ripoll has achieved almost no fault since his appointment in May 2017 as coach of the France Espoirs (under 21) football team. Thursday night, the latter faces Spain for a place in the final of the Euro.

Such a journey was not easy. His predecessors, Eric Mombaerts, Willy Sagnol and Pierre Mankowski had broken their teeth with previous generations of Blueberries. To get there, 47-year-old Sylvain Ripoll made his mark. Imposed his choices. And did not hesitate to dismiss some players. Jean-Kévin Augustin for example. In September 2018, the coach decided to exclude from his group the striker of the German club RB Leipzig, following an altercation after a friendly match.

Disappointed to go out at half-time, Augustin would have thrown him: "Do not talk to me" in front of the whole team. "We had a roadmap, which I had communicated to the players, Sylvain Ripoll explained then. Jean-Kévin, by his behavior, crossed the red line. "

With this strong choice, however, the coach was a player who was European champion with the team of France under 19, voted best player and top scorer of the tournament. This will not stop the team from skimming over the qualifying campaign for the Euro, with nine wins and one draw in ten games.

Lorient, its base

Another decision decided: May 22, an absence of size is noted on the occasion of the announcement of the list of 23 Blueberries to participate in the Euro, that of Abdou Diallo, who had worn the captain's armband during the qualification phase. Sylvain Ripoll has chosen not to retain the central defender of the German club Dortmund because he will be operated on May 24.

This "Micro-transaction" which could not have taken place on another date according to the person concerned, did not suit the breeder: "It will not be available until mid-June. I felt that this situation was not possible, not feasible with the competition of very high level that awaits us. That's why I did not appeal to him. "

To make up for the absence of Diallo, Sylvain Ripoll relied on Dayot Upamecano and Ibrahima Konaté, both of whom live in Leipzig. With only one goal conceded in three group matches of the Euro, France has for the moment the best defense of the tournament. Result, without really convincing, the Blueberries are in the semifinals.

Read also Euro Hopes: Jonathan Ikoné new strong man of the Blueberries

Before joining Les Bleuets, Sylvain Ripoll had learned the basics of coaching at FC Lorient, where he also played as a player. Formed at the Stade Rennais, able to evolve in midfield or on the right side of the defense, he spent four years in Brittany before going on loan at Le Mans for a year.

In 1995 he joined FC Lorient, then coached by Christian Gourcuff. He is vice-champion of France of division 2 in 1998 and finds division 1 for a season. Back in division 2, he is again vice-champion of France in 2001.

But at 32, a few months after a serious knee cruciate ligament injury, Ripoll ended his career. He has played 54 games in Division 1 and 238 in Division 2.

Young coach with strong character

Ripoll becomes then assistant coach of Christian Gourcuff, back to the club after a passage in Rennes and an exile in Qatar. Together, they will lead more than 400 matches in eleven seasons (three in Ligue 2 and eight in Ligue 1).

Their relationship is complicated little by little and the legendary Lorient coach refuses to extend. Sylvain Ripoll is appointed coach of the club on May 25, 2014. He manages to maintain the club in Ligue 1 in his first season on the bench Lorient.

But the second is much more complicated. After eight losses in ten days, Loic Féry, president of the club, decides to thank the coach of Merlus, October 23, 2016. The end of more than twenty years of life together. It is his deputy, Franck Haise who then ensures the interim. Contacted, the latter did not wish to answer our questions.

After his dismissal, Ripoll declared: "I'm going to take some time to see other coaches working. I always thought, in activity, that it was something that I would like to do. "

Time will not have taken much. Barely eight months after the end of his adventure in Lorient, he was named coach of the France Espoirs team on May 11, 2017. But time, he now has a little before him. Still with the Blueberries: his contract was extended by two years at the end of May by the French Football Federation.

Read also Euro football hopes: "The France team can accomplish great things"
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