Team France seeks IFAF Europe Bronze in long awaited return

It’s been over 700 days since we last saw the French national team in action. The lengthy hiatus has led to some substantial changes in the defending European champions. Despite that, head coach Jean-Philippe Danglor is determined to usher in the new era of French football and assert their return with a bronze medal game win against Finland this Saturday.

The French national team has seen major roster turnover from their 2018 European gold team. Key players such a star running back Stephen Yepmo, quarterback Paul Durand, and receiver Andrew James have all left the team after years of proudly wearing blue and white. The transition leads a new era for the French as the days of head coach Patrick Esume leading them to championships seem long gone. Head Jean-Philippe Danglor took over the program in 2019 and refreshed his roster with a host of promising young talent.

Team France in training camp Photo: FFFA

France’s new sideline boss was hoping to see his young team in action earlier this year as the French were scheduled to take on Italy in the IFAF European semi-finals. However, a COVID-19 outbreak following the team’s training camp derailed the game and forced France to forfeit the elimination match. For the defending European champions giving up their chance to repeat was a bitter pill to swallow. French safety Pierre Courageux commented on the semi-final forfeit:

” It’s obviously frustrating not being able to defend the title on the field, with the efforts and hard work we put in. We took all the precautions regarding covid but even with our efforts that wasn’t enough to not get covid cases among the team. Traveling with 70 people is obviously more risky than a basketball team.”

However, the defending champs still have a chance at a medal as they will need to beat a strong Finnish team in Vaanta to secure bronze. Leading the charge offensively is 19-year-old quarterback Leo Cremades and dual-threat passer Joachim Torrelli. Both quarterbacks are two key playmakers to build the offense around. In the run game, European League of Football stars Jason Aguemon and Phileas Pasqualini are proven ball carriers eager to finally represent their country once again. On the outside, Benjamin Plu is a physical receiver with CFL experience. One new member of the team to watch is Pierre Hilderald. The national team rookie is an athletic pass catcher with a basketball background. Hailing from the south of France, he most recently suited up for the Montpellier Hurricanes. Hilderald commented on the team’s preparation for the IFAF championships:

“There have been a lot of changes from the squad that faced Serbia (in 2019). We all want to prove that we deserve to be there, and we want to go to the end of the competition. Even though the French championship did not have a 2020/2021 season, we have not stopped training on our side so everyone is in good shape, ready to perform.”

Pierre Hilderald Photo: FFFA

One holdover from the 2018 European Championship team is veteran linebacker, Massimo Pignataro. Joining Pignataro in the linebacking core will be Marseille Blue Stars standout Eddy Abdullah, one of the best defenders in the French league. France’s secondary also features a few proven veterans as Hadrien Lynda, Amir Kilani, and Pierre Courageux patrol the defensive backfield. In the trenches, Boris Degas and Stanley Zeregbe should be able to create pressure from the defensive end spots against a strong Finnish offensive line. Courageux and his teammates are eager to finally play together after weeks of preparation:

“We are happy to be back training together on the field, some good pieces were added up to the group for this camp, we are hungry to finally prove ourselves on the field this Saturday.”

France’s new national team will fly to Helsinki to take on the Finnish National Team this Saturday in the highly anticipated IFAF European Bronze medal match. In an eagerly awaited return to play, France hopes the relive its success in Finland as the French hoisted IFAF European Gold in Vantaa back in 2018. This time a medal will have to come from new players finally getting their chance to represent their country.

Make sure to tune into AFI.tv and watch France @ Finland, October 30th, 13:00 CET (1 pm, 7 am ET).

Alex is a former professional American football player who is now studying in London. His goal writing for AFI is to stay involved with the game that has given him so much. Alex enjoys covering leagues and players and sharing different football