The France national under-21 football team (French: Equipe de France Espoirs), known in France as Les Espoirs (French pronunciation: [ɛs.pwaʁ], The Hopes), is the national under-21 football team of France and is controlled by the French Football Federation. The team competes in the UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship, held every two years. The team was previously coached by former Toulouse manager Erick Mombaerts, however, following the team's failure to qualify for the 2013 UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship in October 2012, he agreed to leave the position.
Following the realignment of UEFA's youth competitions in 1976, under-21 football teams in Europe were formed. The team is exclusively for football players that are age 21 or under at the start of the two-year campaign of the UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship meaning a player can represent the national team until the age of 23. Since the coaching tenure of Aimé Jacquet, there has been an unwritten rule among senior national team coaches that players called up to the national team must have had prior international experience with the under-21 team. Due to the country's multicultural background, France regularly produces under-21 players who have gone on to play for other country's senior national teams. Players such as Mourad Meghni, Issiar Dia, Sébastien Bassong, and Hassan Yebda all represented France at under-21 level before opting to represent their country of origin at senior level.
France has won the UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship once in 1988. Notable players on the team that went on to play for the senior national team include Laurent Blanc, Eric Cantona, Franck Sauzée, and Jocelyn Angloma, among others. Blanc was named the tournament's Golden Player. The team's best finish since was in 2002 when the team finished runner-up to the Czech Republic in Switzerland. Though the 2002 team produced ten players who went on to play for the senior team, only one of them, Sidney Govou, has become a regular international.
The France under-21 team does not have a permanent home. The team plays in stadiums located all around France, particularly grounds of Ligue 2 clubs. Because of the smaller demand compared to the senior national team, smaller facilities are used. Recently, the under-21 team has established the Stade Auguste-Delaune II, home of Stade Reims, as a home residence having played numerous matches there over the past two seasons.Close