clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

France are looking to finally drop the underachiever tag

This could be the time for France to finally win a major trophy.

France V Iceland, International Friendly. Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

With the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup just a few weeks away, anyone who follows French football knows that this could be the first time since 2011 that France has a legitimate chance to finally win their first-ever major trophy. While not as storied as teams like Germany, Sweden or the United States, France has now become a powerhouse team on the world stage. A powerhouse team that, unfortunately, has flattered to deceive for over a decade now.

France’s talent pool was never a problem, especially once they hit a golden generation in 2011 which was a culmination of a few club owners truly investing heavily in the domestic league. The problem with France was always that, at critical moments, the weaknesses in their managers would be amplified, and they would hit a ceiling of how far they could progress in a tournament.

France v USA: Quarter Final - 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup France Photo by Naomi Baker - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

First, it was with Bruno Bini, who failed to maximize the talent at his disposal in a manner that would allow his team to rise above the others. Bini was in charge of the team from 2009 until 2017, where he saw talents like Louisa Necib, Camille Abily, Sonja Bombastor and many others under his management in that period. Just as he showed at club level, Bini’s biggest weakness: his tactical nous, would show up at the worst possible moments for France and that’s why they exited from the 2011 World Cup and the 2015 World Cup at the semi-final and quarter-final stages respectively. Bini just could not figure out how to guide his team in high-pressure situations to help them win a world cup trophy.

Bini was followed by Corinne Diacre in 2017 and she oversaw the 2019 World Cup run for the team. Once again, a very talented pool of players was under a manager that could not fully utilize it in the right manner. The first big decision that foreshadowed France’s demise in the tournament that they were hosting was the exclusion of Marie-Antoinette Katoto; a player that was in red-hot form and was the solution for the lack of a genuine goal-scorer France was missing. That was a huge missed opportunity for Diacre and France as when the hosts faced the USWNT in the quarter-finals, a player of Katoto’s ability would’ve probably won the game for them, and thus sent them to a path that would’ve possibly given them their first ever World Cup trophy. It wasn’t to be, and Diacre’s gross mismanagement led the way to her dismissal in 2023.

So with a new manager in charge, Hervé Renard, and all of that talent that has been ever present in the French national team, this could be the tournament for them to finally rise above and win that elusive trophy their talent has deserved.

France v Greece: Group B - UEFA EURO 2024 Qualifying Round Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

So what’s the difference now between 2011, 2015, 2019 and this summer? Hervé Renard. France seemingly now have a manager that not only understands his players, but also knows how to use them. Not having Delphine Cascarino and Katoto will hurt France but like in previous tournaments, they have enough talent within their squad to make up for the loss of those players. Renard has also mended fences with veterans like Eugénie Le Sommer and Amandine Henry to give the team some crucial leadership in a tournament as intense and as pressure-filled as a World Cup.

Here are some players to watch for France:

Kadidiatou Diani

In Katoto’s absence, Diani has been asked to fill in as a striker, which isn’t the best use of her qualities. Diani is a winger who can terrorize any backline in the world and can both create and score goals. With the reinstatement of Le Sommer, Diani now has a reliable forward to work with up front and as shown in the friendlies leading up to the World Cup, it seems to be working.

Germany v France: Semi Final - UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images

Grace Geyoro

The Paris Saint-Germain captain is the engine for both club and country. She can control a midfield single-handedly and has the football IQ to match up with any team in front of her. Whether she’s being asked to sit a little further back or asked to be the midfielder that makes late runs into the box, Geyoro can do it all. She will be crucial to France’s plans this summer.

Selma Bacha and Sakina Karchaoui

These two players are the most interchangeable players France has. They both can play at left back, and can both play as left wingers if needed. The differences between them are so minor, it’d be like splitting hairs but Bacha’s set pieces make her slightly more valuable if France need a specialist on the field for set pieces. Otherwise, Renard has used them interchangeably since his arrival and sometimes, has even played them at the same time with Bacha usually further forward. They’re a dangerous duo and are both in great form heading into the tournament. They could prove to be difference-makers for France.

France v Netherlands: Quarter Final - UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images

The Lyon stalwarts

As previously stated, Le Sommer and Henry have been brought back to the French national team. They join Wendie Renard and now form a trio of veteran players who’ve seen it all and done it all at the club level with Olympique Lyonnais. For all of them, this could be it for them on the world’s biggest stage and with a seemingly new lease of life under Renard, they will want to put on a show in Australia and New Zealand that will finally give them the trophy they’re missing from their trophy cabinets. Their leadership cannot be understated and with a manager who is willing to let them translate that club leadership with the national team, they will provide a mental boost that France has lacked throughout its time as a major power in football.

As with many things at a World Cup, so much can go right, and so much can go wrong. France have been nearly there, or within touching distance of a World Cup since 2011 but would always fall short, despite constantly being a bookies favourite. They’re missing key pieces, true, but this could be the first time that the talent at the managerial level has matched the talent in the squad. If nothing else, you can always be guaranteed that France will put on a show, no matter who they face. Now is the time to finally match that show with results.