France has won and drawn a two-game series against Ireland on Wednesday and Thursday of this week. In game one, they won 6-1 before a 1-1 draw in game two completed the Irish visit.
The matches were historic in that they were the first international matches played at France Hockey’s new national training pitch at INSEP (the France National Sporting Academy). INSEP is located on the eastern edge of Paris in the heart of the Vincennes Woods.
“The INSEP facility is a major step for France Hockey,” said France Men’s Team Manager and FFH High Performance Coordinator, Sandra Harik. “For many years, we have been using Club pitches for our national men’s program, and to now have our own high quality Astroturf pitch with 24 hour access is a huge boost for the future.”
“It’s not just the access to the pitch, it’s also the co-habitation with all the other France elite programs that operate each day here at INSEP. This will have a significant psychological and educational effect on our group,” she said.
France fielded a significantly changed squad from its recent success at the European Cup where they finished sixth and secured a berth at the 2011 European Cup in Germany. With some key players injured and unavailable, France Coach Scott Goodheart took the opportunity to play some new faces in the France side, making six changes from team from the August tournament.
In particular, 19 year olds Olivier Sanchez (striker) and Fabien Magner (defender) made their debut for France in Game one.
“Both players equipped themselves beautifully,” said Goodheart. “Both looked very comfortable with the pressure, the speed, and the senior team tactics of the match. One of our objectives for these two games was to bring up to speed and transfer the lessons from the European Cup to the guys that missed the tournament. We did this pretty well and these two players are good examples of this.”
In game one on Wednesday, a motivated France outplayed the visitors, scoring three unanswered goals in the first 23 minutes with goals from Jean-Baptiste Pauchet, Yannick Schambert and Sanchez on debut.
Ireland then scored through a penalty corner flick from Eugene Magee at 25 minutes, before France immediately replied through a well executed penalty corner variation from Captain Matthieu Durchon to take the score to 4-1 at half time. Two goals to France within the first ten minutes of the start of the second half from Durchon and Pauchet sealed the game at 6-1.
Game two on Thursday saw a much tougher and motivated opponent, with the Irish team taking the game to the Bleus. The game was much more even, with each team creating opportunities in attack and some well executed defence from both sides kept the score at 0-0 at half time.
French Captain Nico Monnier scored the opening goal from a penalty stroke after Martin Genestet was fouled in the circle by Irish keeper David Harte. However Ireland scored five minutes later after a France attacking penalty corner execution error gave Ireland an easy rebound into attack and the leveller at 1-1 through Michael Watt.
The game remained at 1-1, and as each defence tired, both teams had opportunities to seal the game, although were unable to find the net. In particular, France had three excellent opportunities to win the match in the last five minutes but the Bleus were unable to execute the final shot.
“Ireland and France are pretty well matched which is not a surprise given our rankings are so close,” said Goodheart. “We have played five games this year and we are currently tied at 2-2, so we enjoy the challenge. That said, we used a variety of new players, some older players in new positions, as well as some experimental tactics in these games, so I was happy with the way we played.”
France is currently due to play world number seven Pakistan in three test matches at the end of next week, although the dates of these matches are still to be confirmed.
France will later this month attend the Worldhockey World Cup Qualifier in Lille (France) from 31 October to 8 November.
The 18 players used for the Ireland matches (age, club, caps after both matches):
DURCHON, Mathieu (28, CA Montrouge, 145)
JANSEN, Noud (25, Pozuelo (ESP), 76)
GOURDIN, Thomas (25, CA Montrouge, 48)
JANSEN, Joost (20, CA Montrouge, 27)
SCHEEFER, Francois (21, CA Montrouge, 44)
LHOMME, Henri Julien (26, FCLyon HCHC, 8)
MIGNEAU, Valentin (24, Lille MHC, 18)
MONNIER, Nicolas (30, Racing Club de France, 82)
BECUWE, Arnaud (28, Tenis Santander (ESP), 76)
GENESTET, Martin (23, St Germain HC, 42)
GENESTET, Tom (22, St Germain HC, 20)
SEVESTRE, Lucas (20, St Germain HC, 21)
SCHAMBERT, Yannick (23, Lille MHC, 25)
DIERCKENS, Matthias (21, Lille MHC, 5)
THOMAS, Guilin (23, FC Lyon HCHC, 4)
SANCHEZ, Olivier (19, CA Montrouge, 2)
PAUCHET, Jean Baptiste (24, St Germain HC, 11)
MAGNER, Fabien (19, Paris Jean Bouin, 1)
Head Coach: Scott GOODHEART
Assistant Coach: Axel GUIGNARD
Manager: Sandra HARIK
Physiotherapist: Yves LELIEVE
Source: Fédération Française de Hockey
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