With the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup set to kick off on June 7, the tournament’s hosts are set to take advantage of possibly their best chance of lifting the trophy for the first time, but there are still questions as to whether manager Corinne Diacre’s women will be able to handle the pressure.
France entered the 2015 Women’s World Cup with similar ambition, only to get knocked out in the quarter-finals by Germany after penalties. In the following Rio Olympics and Euros in the Netherlands also saw Les Bleues come up short, creating a reputation for the home nation as something of underachievers, as previously reported by The Guardian.
Still, the French team boasts one of the most talented squads in the tournament, taking advantage of the dominant Lyon women’s team, which just won their fourth consecutive Champions League last month. The Lyon DNA throughout the squad with a defense anchored by a partnership between Wendie Renard and Griedge Mbock and captain Amandine Henry leading the team from the midfield.
If France expects to achieve its expectations of lifting the cup on home soil, it will be Henry that will be the key. Considered the world’s best defensive midfielder, Henry’s trophy-laden career in Lyon, with only a brief stop in the United States, granted her the knowledge of what it takes to win. Of course, the ability to score from anywhere on the pitch doesn’t hurt either. Henry will be joined in the midfield by Élise Bussaglia, a savvy veteran who has been involved in the French team since 2003.
Issues in past tournaments regarding scoring seem to have been solved since the appointment of Diacre, with the French women scoring in 19 of their last 21 matches. This has been helped in no small part by the influx in scoring talent into the squad, with Eugénie Le Sommer, Valérie Gauvin, Kadi Diani, Delphine Cascarino, and Gaëtane Thiney all providing a diverse set of attacking options.
Diacre has to like her chances of building on her already impressive resume in soccer. Having previously served as captain for the French team, she went on to become the first woman to coach a men’s team in France when she served as manager of Clermont Foot until her appointment to the national team in 2017. Diacre has experienced very little failure in the 21 matches since her appointment, with France’s only losses coming against European rivals Germany and England. After a year of fielding experimental teams, including one that defeated the United States 3-1, Diacre has put together a team full of players that can be depended upon and play her measured and resolute style. Success is only a matter of brushing aside past failures on the big stage and the pressure of playing at home for this talented but unproven team.