When people talk about Division 1 Féminine football, they usually refer to any and all players currently registered with OLympique Lyonnais Féminin or Paris Saint-Germain Féminine. That isn’t entirely a terrible position to take when following the league from outside France as both those rosters boast some of the best players in the world. However, outside of the “Big Two” in France, there are players capable of playing at a higher level who many may overlook because they don’t play for the top two teams in France.
Synonymous with Nigeria and En Avant Guingamp Féminines, Desire Oparanozie has been instrumental in keeping her club team in the top flight from the minute she was first signed there in 2014. She has 39 goals in 92 appearances and this season, was named captain of the team. That additional responsibility has not deterred Oparanozie as she has continued on her goal-scoring feats (5 in 11 appearances) in a side that many don’t expect a lot of goals from.
Not once has she shied away from being the best player she can be, despite a sometimes less than stellar cast around her, and at 26, still has many years ahead of her to shine. Oparanozie has found a new lease of life this season, sharing a strong forward partnership with Louise Fleury and has propelled Guingamp into sixth in the table. The road is still long for Oparanozie and her teammates but as long as she performs as well as she has for the French side, they will stay in the top flight once again this season. Don’t be too surprised if bigger teams come calling for Oparanozie in the near future. Her play this season is that of someone who is ready to play at a higher level should someone be willing to take a chance on her.
Despite being plagued by injuries (three ACL injuries so far), Linda Sällström was one of the best strikers in the Damallsvenskan before making her move last season to Paris FC Féminines who were looking to break the hegemony currently in place at the top. Paris failed to do so after an inconsistent season but Sällström proved to be one of, if not the, signing of the season for the Parisienne side. Sällström scored 12 goals in 21 appearances and had she had better output from those behind her on the pitch, who knows how many goals she could have ended up with.
Paris continue to confound with how poor they can be on their day, considering all the names attached to their roster, but Sällström cannot be included in that category. She has four goals in 11 appearances this season and along with Camille Catala, is the reason why Paris sit in fifth right now and not lower down the table, scrapping to survive relegation. At 31 and with so many big injuries behind her, who knows how long Sällström can keep scoring goals for fun but as of right now, anyone who enjoys football will enjoy the ease with which she scores goals.
Marion Torrent may not be the best right back in the division but she is good enough to still be earning national team call ups and starts with the French national team. Many will remember her from the FIFA Women’s World Cup where she was France’s starting right back until the host nation was eliminated and she has not dipped in form since then (Sunday’s poor loss against Olympique Lyonnais not withstanding).
Despite featuring for a team that still has no identity in Montpellier HSC Féminines, Torrent continues to play at a level above a lot of her teammates. In a better side, Torrent would be racking up assists and winning acclaim across the country but for now, she has to battle through head-scratching performance after performance from Montpellier each week. Once upon a time, Torrent was playing the UEFA Women’s Champions League with Montpellier but the team has fallen from those heady heights in recent seasons. Torrent may seek a move elsewhere to regain continental football but if she does not, she will continue to be one of Montpellier’s more solid performers week-in, week-out.
Khadija Shaw was billed as “one to watch” during the World Cup and once she signed for FC des Girondins de Bordeaux Féminines. She has not disappointed. Bordeaux are flying high at the moment, sitting in third and four points away from possibly piping PSG to a second place finish. Many of Bordeaux’s players have been performing at a high level and “Bunny” Shaw has matched them with her own brilliant performances as well.
The 23-year old Jamaican has taken the spotlight she earned at the World Cup and let it lift her game even more with Bordeaux. Nine goals in 14 appearances shows that Shaw not only has what it takes in one of Europe’s top leagues but given the chance, could take the world by storm. For her sake, I hope Bordeaux make the Champions League next season so Shaw is introduced to an even bigger audience but until then, she will continue to dazzle D1F viewers and opponents alike.
Bordeaux’s pride and joy, Andréa Lardez, has been with her team for quite some time now but over the last two seasons, has really shown her worth within the side. Bordeaux have surprised many with their consistency this season, currently sitting in third and doing better than the likes of Montpellier and Paris FC. Those who follow the French division knew that Bordeaux could be good and performances like the ones Lardez has put in, has pushed the team even further than many thought they could get to. Lardez was in fantastic form when Bordeaux held champions Olympique Lyonnais to a 0-0 draw earlier this year and she has continued to be in total command of her backline each week this season.
Lardez is banging on the door to make the French national team if she continues on with her form as her partnership with Delphine Chatelin at the heart of Bordeaux’s backline has seen them only concede 12 goals this season. She and her teammates will be hoping that there is no drop off this time around as they are within touching distance of the Champions League.