Frédéric Be, head coach of the French national team: “100% from the first match”

The Field Hockey Blues arrived in India on Sunday evening. It’s time for Frédéric Be trainer’s men to acclimatize to the weather (cool but heavy in the morning and evening, 28-30 degrees during the day) before starting the race at 10:30 (15:00) this Friday. local time, at the peak of the heat) against the Australian sofa, which is at the top of the world hierarchy.

France will then face South Africa, who they lost to in the Cup of Nations at the end of last year (Monday, 12.30pm), then 2018 giants Argentina (Friday 20, 10.30am). 5-3) already in Bhubaneswar, en route to their first ever World Cup quarter-final. After two test matches against South Korea and Japan “Change settings and game systems”morale is high and there are no injuries, which has not always been the case in the recent past.

“Is it an advantage or a disadvantage to face Australia immediately?
I prefer to play against Australia first. The team is number one in the world, one of the favorites of the competition, putting us directly into the tournament. We have to be 100% from the first game. We are not favourites, so we have nothing to lose. On the contrary, we have everything to win, so we tried to prepare for this match by setting up a little different systems than we usually do. We’ll see if we can compete and maybe pick up some points.

At the end of last season, you performed poorly in the Nations Cup in South Africa (5th). Did you digest?
Let’s say we were disappointed with the result, of course, because the expectations were high and there was a lot. But we still have cases that explain this poor performance. You might call it that, but it doesn’t have to be a failure. We tried to put things into perspective because we weren’t in optimal preparation at this time of year. We came to South Africa almost unprepared, the players were in a rather serious state of fatigue. We’ve had to manage an unbelievable number of injuries, it’s affected key players, the first time it’s happened to me in my 15-year career. We have never experienced this! Black week. I think that we are the only team that faced such a situation in the international tournament in recent years.

Les Bleus face South Africa in the Cup of Nations. (F. Uijlenbroek/FIH)

So?
In hockey, we usually play at 18. You just have to understand that we have a second goalkeeper, so we have six substitutes (in the field), but because we didn’t have six injured players in the tournament, we played our matches with three substitutes. This means rotating with one player per line. It’s almost impossible at this level. In addition, we played in Potchefstroom, 1000 meters above sea level, it was between 30 and 35 degrees, with minimal preparation, players who had played almost non-stop for five months, with enough physical and mental fatigue.

A week before the start of the competition, many players were still in Belgium, at the Championship. At the back, like South Africa, we were playing with teams that had just been preparing for this competition for three months. Ireland, a team of our level. And even though we’re a bit higher, the Irish can beat us in a match because we can beat teams higher than us in the rankings. We are not looking for excuses, but it is true that all the conditions to hold the best tournament were not met. It was really unusual, very special and had a direct impact on the results, especially in these two group matches where we lost by one goal despite everything. These are not huge margins. Although these teams are behind us in the world ranking, they are not far away, so they are almost at the same level.

“Compared to other nations, we have little experience. This is a parameter that we need to manage well within the staff.

A pre-Christmas camp with a friendly tournament in Cadiz boosted the morale of the troops…
Yes, we beat Germany and Spain, who are in the top seven in the world. Even if it remains a friendly tournament, it means that in the end we can compete with the full squad against the teams ahead of us. We know how to raise our game level. This tournament gave us confidence. Now we have to be more consistent, tougher. We really focused on the state of mind in the sense that the defensive work will be important there against Australia. We will definitely suffer against this team. So we worked on our ability to keep cool and defend well, especially in the last meters.

What do you expect in the other two matches against South Africa and Argentina?
Argentina is a top six team in the world, very difficult to play, very physical, but if we play at our best, I think we can beat them. As for South Africa, this is a team we started as a bit of a favourite. But now these are really very balanced matches. It will go down to the smallest details. Either way, we know what to do to win and also what not to do because we did it in the Nations Cup. (laughs). But I think we are at a different level now than we were a month and a half ago. I have no doubt that if we play really good matches, we will beat South Africa in the framework we have set ourselves and we will do well against Argentina.

Frédéric Be during France-Belgium in May 2022.  (DR)

Frédéric Be during France-Belgium in May 2022. (DR)

There is plenty of youth in the 20-year-old selection… Is this rejuvenation of the workforce meant to prepare for the far-off 2024 Games?
It’s a long way off, but it’s tomorrow and we don’t have much time. We have a group of young players who have achieved results in the last World Cup (bronze medal in 2021). Almost all of them went to Belgium. We still have a few players who play in France, but the group has a certain potential and we need to work on this potential and develop it. Rejuvenating the band wasn’t a particular desire, but it just came naturally. A generation update has occurred.

We also have Amaury Bélanger (who will be a consultant during the coverage of Les Bleus matches on L’Équipe Live) who has been a big player in recent years and is injured with a month to go. Of course, young people have taken their place in this team, which is both an advantage and a disadvantage. On the one hand, they have the dream of playing their first senior World Cup, especially in India, the temple of hockey. On the other hand, we lack a little experience compared to other nations. This is a setting that needs to be well managed within the staff. But the group has a great desire to work, advance, perform. It is also important to think about the future, to prepare with the young players for these Games and after the Games.

From a more technical point of view, there was a small lack of efficiency in the small corner in the Nations Cup. Is this one of the things to fix?
Actually, not because today we are on the nail, but we have progressed in this sector. You should know that if you are between 20-25% (success), you are above average. If we are between 25-30%, we are in the top 3 in the world. If we are below 20%, it becomes difficult to win matches. Today we’re shooting between 20-25%, so we’re a good average. We are trying to be more efficient. Again, it was a small detail, but we did not have a high percentage against Afsud in the National Cup. But 6 of the 8 CPs we have, our 1st shooter Victor Charlet has not been on the pitch… We say we are not effective at CP, but today we have an international player with Victor. level shooter that should confirm in a big competition.

But we are confident because we are working well in this sector of the game. Now we also know that all teams, first of all we are working hard on defensive CP. It really is one of the most improved aspects of hockey in the last three years. Little is said about it, but a lot of analysis and training is being done to counter offensive CP. We hope to succeed in both areas, as we see it as one of the keys to success in modern hockey today.

“Unfortunately, we are limited by these economic resources. We are really the Little Thumb of this World Cup”

Aiming for a medal at the Games with the support of Hockey’s National Sports Agency makes it easier for you to work, but also puts more pressure on the coach, doesn’t it?
As a coach, we always want to do more. ANS helped us participate in the Pro League last year. Unfortunately, we will not have this Pro League this year, so we are still looking for outside sponsors. We must manage to find external resources other than state aid so that we can prepare more and better. Today we are unfortunately limited by these economic resources. We are really the Little Thumb of this World Cup, we should not kid ourselves. We play against teams whose budget is about ten times ours.

At a certain point, it becomes difficult to compete. But now we’re trying to build a training system that allows us to at least have players on a regular basis. Now it is up to us to look for sponsors so that we can work more comfortably and professionally as a federation. »

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