It takes everything to make a group. Among Les Bleues, present at the Women’s Football Euro in England, there are extroverts like Griedge Mbock, the team’s “official DJ”, or even Hawa Cissoko, described internally as “a ray of sunshine”. And there is Clara Matéo, 24, selected among the 23 players to play in her first major tournament with the France team. Less expressive, the player with 13 selections takes her marks within a group that she learns to discover even if she has already played in the youth category with some of its members.
A character trait that the Nantes woman has had since a very young age. “She was always discreet and very appreciated, she was not the type to put herself forward,” recalls Gilles Eyquem, the coach with whom she won the Euro under 19 in 2016, alongside Marie Antoinette Katoto or Grace Geyoro.
If the latter then quickly wore the jersey of the first team, the take-off was longer for the one who devoted herself to her engineering degree in materials science, obtained in 2020 at the University of Paris-Saclay. “I’m a player who likes to understand and take the time. I had a lot of shortcomings and it was important that I improve all that to be able to claim a place, ”explains Clara Matéo.
“Stability and Maturity”
Clara Matéo expresses the constant need “to make your head work and to be reflective during the day to better assimilate the instructions and take in the information more quickly” in the evening during training. The head, she also likes to use it on the ground. “She jumped high, which is rare among girls,” notes Gilles Eyquem. It is also from the head that Clara Matéo, despite her 1.68 m, offered a decisive pass to Melvine Malard during the first match of preparation for the Euro against Cameroon (4-0), June 25 .
“I’ve done quite a bit of athletics, so in terms of timing and jumping I have quite a bit of relaxation,” she smiles. And even if she has not been decisive this season in this register with her club, Paris FC (PFC), Clara Matéo is going through the best period of her career with an exercise ended with 11 goals and a symbolic place in the team. type of the 2021-2022 season of the French championship.
Corinne Deacon appreciates her ability to evolve in midfield and in attack. “His performances have evolved this season. We had selected her last season and she had arrived very shy. We have seen a certain stability and maturity emerge with his club and his professional life. His versatility is an additional opportunity, ”noted the coach after the announcement of her list for the Euro on May 30.
She had the opportunity to demonstrate this on Thursday July 14 in the second match of the group stage of the Euro, against Belgium (2-1). Established as an attacking midfielder, the number 10 multiplied the millimeter passes to his partners, was at the origin of the action leading to the first goal of the Blue, and it is on one of his crosses that the second , that of victory, was entered.
The year 2021 marked a shift in the player’s life. In addition to a first tenure in the French team in February during a friendly match against Switzerland, she signed a permanent contract in March with Arkema, sponsor of the championship: benefiting from flexible hours, she can devote herself to her activity. of a professional player.
“She has the perfect job, which matches her studies. She plays in Paris, near the headquarters of Colombes [Hauts-de-Seine], underlines the director of communication of Arkema, Gilles Galinier. All the planets are currently aligned. As on the ground, she rushes and goes straight to the goal. She goes fast and applies this desire for speed in our projects and our actions. »
This tailor-made contract is no stranger to his progress on the pitch. “This double project allowed me not to skip the steps and to be fulfilled in what I do, confesses the main interested party, under contract until 2024 with the PFC. If I didn’t know what to do with my future, football would have become complicated for me. I am in full football momentum, so I am old enough to prioritize my sports career. »
Gilles Eyquem observed the developments: “She had a fairly binary register: I take the ball, I push it and I go fast. She has made tremendous progress. She developed a potential that was hard to imagine at the time, “said her former coach.
“He is a focused and attentive person, with strong values. It’s a locomotive, “supports his club captain, Gaëtane Thiney. “I am happy that she is making the Euros, because it will allow her to harden herself at the highest level,” adds the international to the 163 caps.
With recent convincing performances in the tricolor jersey, Clara Mateo remains lucid about what she needs to improve: “Taking responsibility and self-confidence. Work the left foot well. Play in one touch at the right time or carry the ball and go forward…” But let her future Euro opponents make no mistake: the one who portrays herself as “a fighter”, “never lets go of anything, from start to finish of the game”.