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Women’s Euro 2022 – Melvine Malard, “a joker” who could end up replacing Marie-Antoinette Katoto

From our special correspondent in Rotherham,

The red mat theory is going to pass one hell of a crash test. If Melvine Malard brings up this color in her hair, it’s only because she hopes the mojo hasn’t left her. “I’m not superstitious, but I always think positive. I finished top scorer at Euro U19 with red pigtails. So I said to myself: ‘Now I will always play in red mats’. Last time I tried blonde pigtails and didn’t score a goal“, she laughed, as always, with Onze Mondial last April.

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So, in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, base camp of the Blue, we notice it more easily. Even without that, Melvine Malard remains apart, with her airy gait and her perpetual smile. She embodies, like her best friend Selma Bacha, the new generation from Lyon, the one called to take power at Les Bleues in the years to come. In the immediate future, Corinne Deacon seems to have opted for the Ouleymata Sarr option against Iceland (9 p.m.). Immediately. Because with Malard, you can’t swear to anything as her journey to the heights has been made at supersonic speed, just like the player she is.

Evoking the course of Melvine Malard, it is necessarily to return to this year 2014 where everything changes. After becoming passionate about football on her island of Reunion, becoming captain of a boys’ team as a central defender, she finally participated in the National U15 Cup with her team from Saint-Denis.

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Spotted by Bompastor

At this tournament, there is Sonia Bompastor, OL youth managershe rewinded for OL Play in 2021. I scored a lot of goals, I finished top scorer. She came to see me to get in touch with my parents. A week later, when returning to Reunion, my mother received a phone call asking me to come to OL. I have two months to think it over. I made the decision in two days (laughs). I said to myself ‘Olympique Lyonnais, there’s Wendie Renard there…’. Yes, of course, yes. I’m 14 years old, I didn’t ask myself any questions”.

At the OL training center, she impresses with the liveliness of her support, her speed, her versatility and her freshness. Quickly, a pro contract is offered to her and it is in the middle of an XXL workforce that she tries to nibble on playing time. Brood by Wendie Renard, her lifelong idol who has become her friend, she grows at her own pace, continuing to string together goals with disconcerting ease in the youth categories.

Melvine Malard and Wendie Renard in the OL jersey

Credit: Imago

It is logical that Gilles Eyquem, U19 coach, called on her for the Euro U19 in 2019. The attacker, with red braids therefore, finished European champion and top scorer in the competition (4 goals). But her potential is still limited, especially at the finish, and OL have chosen to lend her to Fleury. The irresistible rise of Malard among the pros can begin.

A hot season

If the Covid comes to upset the basic plan, it is another player that Jean-Luc Vasseur picks up at OL in the summer of 2020. So much so that when Ada Hegerberg and Eugénie Le Sommer run out of appeal, the former Lyonnais coach does not bother: Malard’s hour has come. Against Juventus, in C1, she scored in the first leg. Also on the way back. Same price against Brondby. For her, as for OL, it is confirmation that she is made of a different wood.

This season was one of an irresistible rise in power under the orders of… Sonia Bompastor. Destiny again. With 17 goals on the clock and crazy activity in her left lane where her agreement with Selma Bacha drove European defenses crazy, she quickly became obvious for Corinne Deacon. Selected in September 2020, she is slow to find the net in selection but unlocks against Kazakhstan in October 2021 with a double.

Melvine Malard against Italy

Credit: Getty Images

Melvine is a young player who hadn’t yet found the net with uspraises her then the coach of the Blues, seduced by her profile. She performs well in the club and on a daily basis, she shows a lot. She shows a lot of desire, she is really an example for our young people. They really need to follow this example, because Melvine is a very conscientious person, and I’m happy for her because she is finally rewarded for her efforts.“.

His progress has been amazing

The biggest room for improvement, I think it’s Melvineconfirms Gilles Eyquem, also under the spell of the evolution of the French striker. I find her extraordinary with the France team. I think her progress has been amazing, in her self-confidence, in her ability to make the difference in front of goal. His register has evolved enormously. Before she was a little more airheaded, a little less killer, with periods of absence. She is more regular in her game, in her involvement“.

Because she is a sponge and a hard worker, Malard took advice from others and in particular Marie-Antoinette Katoto, whom she could replace for the rest of the Euro. “I talk a lot with her, we talk a lot about footballshe explained to us before the start of the competition. In training, she advises me a lot. Me, I have this problem of hesitation when I come face-to-face with the guard. Marie is something she had before and she manages very well now. That’s why she’s a top scorer, why she manages to score difficult goals with great ease, so she gives me a lot of advice“.

Facing Iceland, it is possibly as a supersub that she is expected. “Each time she entered, she brought her qualities of percussion but she is also able to keep the ball with her back to the goalrightly analyzed Wendie Renard on Sunday. She’s an instinctive player, we don’t need to talk to her, she will play with her qualities“. Before hoping for a little more? It was ultimately Gilles Eyquem who had planned everything. His former U19 coach, when returning to Corinne Deacon’s list, had these words which he hopes are premonitory for his former protegee: “For me it’s more than a joker“.

With Vincent Roussel

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