by Fraser Posford
On July 8-9 2017, 15 national teams from all over Europe will compete in Oslo, Norway for the title of European Champion. The next article in our European Games 2017 series is on Team France.
Interview with Head Coach Albert Bregeault
QP: How are you preparing your team for European Games (EG)?
Bregeault: The French national team has been preparing pretty well since the beginning of the season. We had several training weekends over the last few months, including tryouts, pre-selection, and full roster training sessions. We practice as a team once a month and in addition, players keep training hard. We basically trained on our World Cup weaknesses and we did improve on what we were already pretty good at, including new members joining the national team for the first time. One more week before EG, we are prepared!
QP: What are you hoping to achieve at the tournament?
Bregeault: As a player of the team and the main coach, I’m aiming for the win in every single game, including the final. I especially hope that we will be able to use our new strength and bench depth as well as we want to.
QP: Which teams do you particularly want to play against?
Bregeault: I’d love to play games against teams who play the game the same way we do: Fast and strong; who want to beat us and not lose by not playing 100 percent. I’m looking forward to Day One, since there is no issue about losing; I really hope teams will try their best against us so we can play our best. Turkey might be the best at this.
QP: What challenges have you had to face in the build-up to this tournament?
Bregeault: The hard part was the lack of opportunities to actually play full roster quidditch against another nation. Last year, we played against Team Germany and it was very useful. This year, we only faced each other for the entire season. The good thing is it won’t matter that much thanks to Day One.
QP: What are the strengths of your team? Are there any key players (or underrated players) we should watch out for?
Bregeault: We’ve got the best brooms up lineup in Europe by far. People know each other. A no–bludger situation in your favour is a free ticket to our goals.
QP: After both the national team and club teams failed to make it to the semifinals of the IQA World Cup 2016 and the European Quidditch Cup (EQC) 2017, respectively, is there anything you think you can do, or are doing, differently to improve on these performances and ensure France is victorious once more?Bregeault: We learned a lot about our losses; we actually needed this. We bounced back and we know exactly what to improve. I think today no one can outplay us before the snitch is on pitch. And, well, we don’t like to lose.
Reigning champions France are undoubtedly one of the favourites at this year’s European Games and will likely view the tournament as a revenge mission. ‘Les Bleus’ narrowly lost out to eventual champions Australia at the quarterfinal stage of the 2016 World Cup in their only snitch–range game of the weekend; a painful defeat for a team that looked destined for a podium finish prior to the tournament. Two-time EQC champions Titans Paris, who will be supplying 11 players to this year’s roster, were shockingly dumped out of EQC 2017 at the hands of NTNUI Rumpeldunk, also in the quarterfinals, which ended their hopes of a historic three–peat. With these results in mind, as well as the resurgence of Paris Frog and Crookshanks Lyon as major forces within Europe, France should be hungry to get back to winning ways by regaining the title they won in Sarteano two years ago.
This year’s roster comes with improved strength in depth, which means France should be less reliant on their key players as they were at World Cup. In the place of former captain Denis ‘Plog’ Jourdan, Paris Frog’s Cédric Chillan, former Texas Quidditch player Austin Dickson, and Paris Titans’ Antoine Luppi (returning to the team after missing the World Cup) add bulk to a quaffle game that has traditionally been characterised by the speed of the likes of Valentin Farese and Albert Bregeault. This increased physical dimension brings greater variety to both the offensive and defensive aspects of their game, which few sides should be able to cope with.
Beaters Amel Belferroum and Bastien Lucas played a major part in Frog’s run to the Coupe de France final and EQC quarterfinals this season and will be hoping they can replicate this good form for the national side in Oslo. Etienne Pogu will once again be key to France’s progress. His incredible catching reflexes and beat accuracy make him one of the best beaters in Europe and the world, and teams will have to find a way to successfully nullify his effectiveness if they want to beat the French, although this is much easier said than done.
Despite the relative strength of the other Group A nations, any defeat of this France side will likely be seen as an upset, especially if that leads to them missing out on a medal once again. This is potentially France’s strongest team ever, and if they replicate the determination they showed in Sarteano, they have a very good chance of making a return to champion status.