by Jean-Pierre Thiesset
Above: The French national team pictured after qualifying for the European Championships. Photo: Equipe de France Feminine.
The France women’s national football team is known or nicknamed as Les Bleues (The Blue ones) and are currently placed third in the FIFA Women’s World Rankings.
Goalkeepers: Mylène Chavas (Bordeaux, France), Pauline Peyraud-Magnin (Juventus Italy), Justine Lerond (FC Metz, France).
Defenders: Selma Bacha (Olympique Lyonnais, France), Hawa Cissoko (West Ham United, England), Sakina Karchaoui (Paris Saint-Germain, France), Griedge Mbock (Olympique Lyonnais, France), Ève Périsset (Bordeaux, France), Wendie Renard (Olympique Lyonnais, France), Marion Torrent (Montpellier, France), Aissatou Tounkara (Atletico Madrid, Spain).
Midfielders: Charlotte Bilbault (Bordeaux, France), Kenza Dali (Everton, England), Sandie Toletti (Levante, Spain), Grace Geyoro (Paris Saint-Germain, France), Ella Palis (Bordeaux, France).
Forwards: Sandy Baltimore (Paris Saint-Germain, France), Delphine Cascarino (Olympique Lyonnais, France), Kadidiatou Diani (Paris Saint-Germain, France), Marie-Antoinette Katoto (Paris Saint-Germain, France), Melvine Malard (Olympique Lyonnais, France), Clara Matéo (Paris FC, France), Ouleymata Sarr (Paris FC, France).
There are five players from both Olympique Lyonnais and Paris Saint-Germain in this squad; this is not surprising as these two teams dominated D1 Arkema this season. Furthermore, most of these 10 players will probably be in the starting team.
There were though some surprises. Amandine Henry (Olympique Lyonnais), in pretty good shape in the end of D1 Arkema season and scorer of an outstanding goal in Champions League Final, is not in the squad. According to a lot of people who follow women’s football, it is only because she spoke out against Corinne Diacre in previous years in the media.
Some players not selected are easier to explain in my opinion. Eugénie Le Sommer, Olympique Lyonnais, is still a great player but she had not played a lot this season and was never in the starting team when she came back to Lyon from her loan at OL Reign in USA. Goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi of OL Reign then Olympique Lyonnais this season has only rarely played when she came back from USA, apart from when Christiane Endler was injured. Perle Morroni, Olympique Lyonnais, lost her starting place in Lyon team for Selma Bacha.
The Head Coach:
Corinne Diacre, 47 years old, has been in charge since 2017. She spent her entire playing career with Soyaux. She earned 121 caps for France, scoring 14 goals, and appeared at the 1997, 2001, and 2005 European Championships. Diacre also scored the goal that ensured France’s first-ever qualification for the World Cup of 2003.
Diacre’s coaching career saw her as Soyaux’s manager and assistant to the national side and notably, in 2014 she took charge of men’s second-tier side Clermont Foot. This was the first time a woman had led a men’s team in the top two divisions of a European league. She left the role in 2017 to take over the head coach position for the French Women’s National Team.
Controversy has followed Diacre with selections for the national side and some players have spoken openly in the media to question her decision-making.
France have appeared six times in the European Championships. They first qualified in 1997. Their best results came in making the Quarter-Finals in 2009, 2013, and 2017.
France topped Group G with seven wins and a draw. They did not concede a goal throughout. The campaign included wins of 12-0, 11-0, and 7-0 over Kazakhstan (first scoreline), and North Macedonia (remaining two scorelines). Austria was the only team to prevent France from winning when they earned a 0-0 draw.
Most players have a lot of international experience either with France national team or with their club side. France has several top players capable of outstanding performances and they played more and more like a team over the last few months.
They need to be more efficient in attack and be able to keep the ball in midfield.
Wendie Renard who has a lot of experience as centre-back and is devastating in the air, particularly from corners and free-kicks close to the goal. There is also Marie-Antoinette Katoto who was the top scorer with 18 goals in D1 Arkema this season. Selma Bacha has been outstanding. As well as putting in a superb personal display in the Champions League Final, she took the honour of providing the some of the most assists in the competition with nine. This is on top of seven assists this season in D1 Arkema, a competition that she scored also three goals in.
One To Watch:
Ella Palis. 23 years old of Bordeaux, with four caps in the midfield. Palis has been selected in almost all the junior national squads and was the captain of France’s U19 team during the U19 Euros in 2018. She has made a lot of progress this year and could be a new key player of France team
France should finish top of Group D as they are facing nations in Italy, Iceland, and Belgium who are below them in the rankings, although it must be said Italy has made a lot of progress in recent years. Personally, I think France could go far in this summer’s tournament and reach the final.
10th July: Italy, 8pm, New York Stadium, Rotherham.
14th July: Belgium, 8pm, New York Stadium, Rotherham.
18th July: Iceland, 8pm, New York Stadium, Rotherham.