Soccer. Between CAN and Covid-19, place for young people in Ligue 1?


Constrained and forced, many L1 clubs have called on their young shooters in recent weeks, a breath of fresh air which will have to be seen if it is sustainable.

In Lens on Sunday, Rennes lined up an entirely new generation defense, with Dogan Alemdar (born in 2002) in the cages behind Lorenz Assignon, Loïc Badé and Warmed Omari (2000), as well as Adrien Truffert (2001). And despite the 1-0 defeat, the light often came from the youngsters on the Rennes side.

Goalkeeper of the reserve team in National 3, Alemdar (19) was thus promoted in the absence of the holder, the Senegalese Alfred Gomis, and his lining Romain Salin, affected by the Covid and injured in a calf.

“If we took him, it’s because we knew he could start. He had done it in the Turkish championship. It’s still a young goalkeeper but it’s reassuring, ”commented coach Bruno Genesio after elimination from the Coupe de France in Nancy (1-1, 4-3 on pens) in early January.

Titis winners at PSG

Reims also appeared with a rejuvenated face in Clermont (0-0) on Sunday, for the same reasons. At kick-off, Oscar Garcia lined up four 19-year-old players (N’Dri Koffi, Locko, Lopy and Mbuku) and an 18-year-old, Martin Adeline.

The latter, established for the first time in Auvergne, « was our best player », according to the coach. Three weeks earlier, having just entered the game against fans of Reims Sainte-Anne (R1, 6th division), he had qualified his team for the round of 16 of the Coupe de France.

At Paris SG, where heightened competition is coupled with enormous pressure for the result, the horizon of the « Titis » also emerged during unbalanced matches in the Cup, against Feignies-Aulnoye (32nd, N3, 3 -0) and Vannes (16th, N2, 4-0), allowing Xavi Simons, Edouard Michut, El Chadaille Bitshiabu or even Ismaël Gharbi to try their jerseys.

The context made difficult by the increase in Covid cases and the absences linked to the CAN (Hakimi, Gueye, Diallo) offered the first two cities the possibility of continuing in the Championship, Sunday in Lyon (1-1) where the inbound Michut provided an assist on the equaliser.

“It’s nice, I think they have earned their chance, they always train well. Mentally they are ready. Édouard was decisive, Xavi runs everywhere, he knows how to play in several positions, ”welcomed midfielder Marco Verratti after the meeting.

Accelerated “learning”

At OM, Jorge Sampaoli does not pay much attention to young players in the Marseille squad and reserve. But the current period could encourage it, or force it, to give more space to young shoots.

Facing Bordeaux (1-0), the absences of Bemba Dieng and Pape Gueye (CAN), Gerson and Arkadiusz Milik (Covid), Valentin Rongier and Steve Mandanda (infirmary) thus led him to summon seven young people, including the promising Salim Ben Seghir and Oussame Targhalline. But, with the exception of the last, entered at the very end of the game, the young people are there for the moment only to make up the number on the bench.

We don’t even work for tomorrow, it’s for the day after tomorrow

In Metz, the half-dozen players who left for the CAN (Maïga, Boulaya, Matar Sarr, etc.) forced the coach to throw young people into the deep end. Against Strasbourg (2-0 defeat), William Mikelbrencis (17) played his first match in L1, along with the most experienced midfielder or defender Amadou Salif Mbengue (20), who has not yet signed pro.

« One is from 2004, the other from 2002. Circumstances mean that at some point they play », commented Frédéric Antonetti, evoking a necessary « learning », but too early for his taste: « We are the January 9, 2022, they will be good players in 2023, 2024, 2025”.

And to add: “Maybe this evening, they realized that it might take a little time to reach the top level. But these are players with potential. We don’t even work for tomorrow, it’s for the day after tomorrow, ”he concluded.

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