France is one of many European countries that has a rich tradition of staging elite youth tournament football throughout July and August.
During this month we have already seen 256 different teams, from U10 through to U19 level, participate in the inaugural Paris World Cup, whilst in the latter half of August there will be two major competitions taking place featuring domestic clubs, at U19 and U17 levels respectively, in Le May-Sur-Èvre and Quevilly.
However in less than two weeks’ time, the most high-profile competition of them all will be taking place in Ploufragan, North-West France: Tournoi Européen des Centres U21.
The tournament is one of several which is supported by Scout7 during the season and when you look into the competition’s history and that of the venue, you can see why we feel very privileged to be involved.
It takes place at the Centre Henri Guerin, which was first opened in 1995 as a regional centre for developing young footballers in Brittany. Like Clairefontaine, it is one of twelve elite centres based all around France that are overseen by the FFF, with the objective of producing players for the French national teams at various age-group levels.
The facility is a key regional development centre for the FFF
Soon after the centre was opened, they established a summer U21 competition to help some of their local professional teams, such as Stade Rennais, Le Havre and EA Guingamp prepare their younger players who were stepping up to their ‘B’ teams for the new season.
The competition has now taken place for eighteen consecutive years and has seen dozens of future French senior internationals take part, including the likes of Raphael Varane, Etienne Capoue, Josuha Guilavogui, Steve Mandanda, Jeremy Toulalan and last year’s Ligue 1 golden boot runner-up, Andre-Pierre Gignac.
Last year they invited an overseas team to play in the tournament for the first time, Tottenham Hotspur, giving the English club’s development squad the opportunity to experience competitive matches against foreign opponents, different to those they normally face as part of their domestic programme.
In total, across the eight participating teams there was a massive fifty-four players, from thirteen different countries, who had been capped at youth international level. Two of them went on play at this summer’s FIFA U20 World Cup: Senegalese goalkeeper Ibrahima Sy and American centre-half Cameron Carter-Vickers. Both featured in every minute of their respective nation’s World Cup campaigns.
The 2014 tournament was won by Lorient, who defeated Stade Rennais on penalties after the final finished all square at 1-1. Despite their defeat, Rennes have a remarkable record of being unbeaten in open play from their last twelve games at the competition, a run which stretches back over three years.
They are one of five French teams returning to play this year, with the number of overseas places being extended to three. From England, Tottenham are coming back for a second year and they will be joined by their Premier League colleagues West Bromwich Albion.
Belgian side Anderlecht will also be taking part, with the remaining French contingent being made up of Olympique Marseille, Lorient, Guingamp and Caen.
The line-up is arguably the strongest the competition has ever had, which bodes well for the thousands of local spectators who are expected to turn up and watch from 24-26 July.
From Scout7’s perspective, we are pleased to be playing a small part in the organisation of the event through managing all the competition’s scouting accreditation, as we do at the Toulon Festival. We are also assisting with the filming of the tournament, so that all the participating teams get a copy of all the matches, which will also be available post-event, alongside all match line-ups, in the Intelligent Sports Framework (ISF).
Tournoi Européen des Centres U21 is not the only elite football taking place at Centre Henri Guerin during the season either. In 2013, with the support of public funding they invested heavily in their on-site facilities, which has resulted in a new four-star accommodation block being built, together with an indoor gymnasium, weights room, sauna and conferencing rooms.
As a result, a number of teams now visit the centre each year to hold training camps and play friendly matches. This year they have hosted international youth teams from countries including Morocco and Gabon, as well as staging competitions which allow independent academies to play some of the local professional clubs in the area.
The Morocco U18 team played Gabon U18 at the Centre in April
In September they are hoping to stage a six-team tournament, featuring two clubs and four elite academies from different parts the world, with details to be confirmed in due course.
In the meantime, they are looking forward to starting the 2015/16 season with three days of fantastic football served up by teams possessing some of the best youth academies in north-west Europe.
If you are working at a club and would like to join us by requesting official accreditation for Tournoi Européen des Centres U21, please email us at email@example.com and we will send you an application form.
We look forward to seeing you there!