Super Eagles head coach Gernot Rohr is convinced that the abundance of top French talents in the biggest clubs across the world stemmed from the country’s decision to focus on youth development in the late eighties.
France won the inaugural European Championships in 1960, beating the Soviet Union 2-1 after extra-time but then endured a barren, trophyless run for nearly forty years before lifting the FIFA World Cup as host in 1998.
Exactly a decade before that monumental triumph, though, the French Football Federation established the Centre Technique National Fernand Sastre, commonly referred to as INF Clairefontaine, one of the best-known football academies in the world for young talents.
The centre has produced some of the most gifted French players, including Thierry Henry (a member of the France ’98 World Cup-winning team), Nicholas Anelka (Euro 2000 winner), and Kylian Mbappe (Russia 2018 winner).
With an unrivalled array of world-class performers comprising stars from Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, UEFA Champions League winners Chelsea, and French giants PSG, the French national team is yet again odds on favourite to beat all comers to lift the Euro 2020.
Rohr believes the French policy of catching the players young is the secret behind the country’s unending supply of top talents.
“We work very well with young people very early on. The talents are spotted regionally and nationally,” said the former Girondins Bordeaux manager as quoted by the Tageblatt.
“You will move in together early at the age of 13.
“As early as 1972, the then association president Fernand Sastre had the idea for the Clairefontaine performance center, which is around 60 kilometers from Paris and opened in 1988.”
France begin their UEFA Euro 2020 journey with a clash against Germany on Tuesday, June 15, at the Fussball Arena in Munich.