By Sylvain Jamet
The France Women’s National Team finished fourth in the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Throughout the tournament, Les Bleues won acknowledgement for its vibrant, attractive, attacking football. As we have done with England, we will have a look on how things have changed or evolved since France’s eye-opening performances in Germany.
In Group 4 of Euro 2013 Qualifying, France has started well with three away wins. The team has defeated Israel 5-0, Ireland 3-1 and Wales 4-1 and earned a home win against Israel. Thanks to Wales’ draw with Scotland, France simply needs to win the next three home games against Scotland, Wales, and Ireland to qualify. That would make the last game – a potentially tricky match against the Scots – irrelevant.
France’s recent friendlies campaign went well, too. Bruno Bini’s side won 2-0 against Poland in a match that drew 18,305 supporters. The team also found success in a tour in the West Indies that saw an 8-0 win against Uruguay and a 5-0 against Mexico. The latest friendly against the Netherlands ended 2-1 and attracted 8,147 supporters despite the freezing temperature.
Since the World Cup, Bruno Bini has been blooding in new talent comprised of U-19 European champions. Marina Makanza of Freiburg has just been called up for the Cyprus Cup. She leads a pack of fresh faces that includes Kelly Gadea (Montpellier), Lea Rubio (PSG), and Camille Catala (St-Etienne), each of whom has come to the fore post-World Cup.
In terms of a game plan, the aim is to continue playing beautiful attacking football, but the old problems of poor finishing must not hamper the team. Often with France, chances are created left, middle, and center but the conversion rate is not at the highest standard. It needs to be improved if France wants to win the Olympics or other major tournaments in which chances come at a premium.
France employs a 4-2-3-1 system. The starting XI is more or less settled except in perhaps two positions in which Bruno Bini has many choices:
Goalkeeper: Sarah Bouhaddi has just come back into the side after being sidelined for about a year due to disciplinary reasons. Celine Deville is competing for the jersey alongside 20 year-old Laetitia Phillipe. Berangere Sapowicz was the no. 1 choice at the World Cup but got injured against Sweden. She returned to PSG but has not been called back since.
Right-back: Corrine Franco has won back her place after being kept on the bench throughout the World Cup due to fitness and Laure Lepailleur’s form. She has slightly struggled to get game for Olympique Lyon due to choices by head coach Patrice Lair.
Center-backs: Ophelie Meilleroux and Laure Georges seem to be the preferred pairing although Wendie Renard is not far behind them. Kelly Gadea is a the newcomer that has positioned herself as fourth choice. Experienced OL defender Sabrina Viguier has not been called up for a few matches now.
Left-back: You guessed it; Sonia Bompastor, of course. Her back-up is Laure Boulleau, who has also shown her quality.
Defensive midfield: 37 year-old team captain Sandrine Soubeyrand is an automatic choice. The other players vying for the position are Camille Abily and Elise Bussaglia. The latter had a very strong showing at the World Cup. One player missing from the selection is Amandine Henry who had some world class performances with OL last season and sustained a very high level for more than a year, but was sidelined prior to the World Cup. Her energy, reading of the game, intelligence, passing, and tackling skills are sorely missed.
Attacking midfields/forwards: Eugenie Le Sommer has now established herself as an automatic first-choice. Familiar names Gaetane Thiney and Louisa Necib are also in the starting XI on a regular basis. Elodie Thomis – known for her electric pace – is typically used as a sub. Youngsters Camille Catala and Marina Makanza are starting their respective journeys with the team.
Center forward: Marie-Laure Delie is the number one, with 30 goals in 32 international games. Specialist super-sub goal scorer Sandrine Bretigny will miss the tournament, as she has had many injury woes, despite being a surprise call-up at both Euro 2009 and the 2011 World Cup. In-form Juvisy forward Laetitia Tonazzi has not been called up either perhaps due to communication difficulties.