At 17 years, eight months and 11 days, Zaïre-Emery, who joined PSG in 2014, will earn a place in French football history if he features at Nice’s Allianz Riviera.
ligue1.com looks at the pantheon of precocious talents he’ll be joining.
The all-time top 5 youngest France debutants
1) Julien Verbrugghe (16 years, 10 months, 6 days)
Verbrugghe’s record has already stood for more than a century and could well double that. A forward with AS Française and then Red Star, he stepped onto the Parc des Princes pitch on 1 November, 1906, in a 15-0 defeat to England. He played three more matches with Les Bleus – all in 1911. He was killed in August 1916 during the Battle of the Somme aged just 26.
2) Maurice Gastiger (17 years, 4 months, 5 days)
It was another historic match in which Gastiger – then a forward at Laval – made his senior international debut when he was anything but senior. It almost certainly wasn’t a piece of history he wanted as he featured in France’s only loss to date to Luxembourg on 8 February 1914 with Les Bleus beaten by the odd goal in nine.
Gastiger made another appearance before the First World War, and earned himself another unique place in French football history, one he was surely much more proud of: he is still the youngest player to score for France, finding the net aged 17 years, 5 months and 5 days in a 2-2 draw with Switzerland on 8 March, 1914. He made his third and final appearance some six years later.
3) Eduardo Camavinga (17 years, 9 months, 29 days)
Caps/Goals: 13/1 (as of 15/11/23)
The Real Madrid midfielder knows exactly what it’s like to be Zaïre-Emery right now as he too was called up to play for his country when most youngsters his age only get called to appear before their school’s headteacher. Then at Rennes, Camavinga came off the bench to replace N’Golo Kante 63 minutes into France’s Nations League win over Croatia on 8 September, 2020.
“First of all I feel joy and pride for my family and for all French people,” he told French TV after the match. “Yes, my goal is to come back, of course, and first of all to concentrate on performing well with my club because we have a match on Sunday and then with the national team if I am called back.” Well, you know the rest…
4) René Gérard (17 years, 11 months)
Gérard was a month shy of becoming an adult when – as a forward with Montpellier – he appeared for France in a 3-1 win over Scotland on 8 May, 1932. He made seven appearances in all, scoring both his international goals in a 3-3 draw with Germany in March, 1933.
5) Maryan Wisniewski (18 years, 2 months, 2 days)
Camavinga and perhaps Zaïre-Emery may well surpass his achievements, but Wisniewski is currently the most successful of the top five youngest players to have pulled on the fabled blue shirt.
He was barely 18 when he faced Sweden in 2-0 win on 3 April 1955. A Lens player at the time, he would make over 300 appearances for the club, twice finishing runner-up in the league. He was also part of the France squad that took third place at the 1958 FIFA World Cup and fourth at the UEFA EURO two years later.
Zaïre-Emery’s PSG teammate Kylian Mbappé – of course – was not far outside the top five having first appeared for France on 25 March, 2017, when he was 18 years, 3 months and five days old in a 3-1 win over Luxembourg.
If Zaïre-Emery plays, he still will not even be the youngest international debutant this year: Barcelona’s Lamine Yamal was just 16 years and 57 days old when he appeared for Spain against Georgia in September.
And both are almost middle-aged in comparison to the very youngest international debutants. Stephan Appiah – the former Juventus and Fenerbahce midfielder – was 14 years and 322 days old when he first played for Ghana in 2005. And even he isn’t number one: that’s Lukas Knecht of the Northern Mariana Islands, a territory of 14 Pacific Ocean islands. He was 14 years and two days – feel old yet? – on 1 April 2007 when he featured in a 9-0 defeat to Guam.
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