June 18, 2011

Group A Preview: France

France (#7)
Region: UEFA
Coach: Bruno Bini
How They Qualified: Won UEFA Group Stage, then defeated Italy in playoff.
Prior Cups:
2007: DNQ
2003: Group Stage
1999: DNQ
1995: DNQ
1991: DNQ

Roster (Average Age: 26.41)

Celine DevilleGKMontpellier2941/0
Laetitia PhillippeGKMontpellier201/0
Berangere SapowiczGKParis St. Germain2816/0
Sonia BompastorDFFCF Lyon31126/15
Laura GeorgesDFFCF Lyon2696/2
Laure LePailleurDFParis St. Germain2626/2
Ophelie MeillerouxDFMontpellier2742/0
Corine Petit-FrancoDFFCF Lyon2745/8
Wendie RenardDFFCF Lyon205/0
Sabrina ViguierDFFCF Lyon3084/1
Camille AbilyMFFCF Lyon2673/18
Laure BoulleauMFParis St. Germain2412/0
Elise BussagliaMFParis St. Germain2579/18
Louisa NecibMFFCF Lyon2456/9
Caroline PizzalaMFParis St. Germain2313/0
Sandrine SoubeyrandMFJuvisy37159/18
Sandrine BretignyFWFCF Lyon2617/8
Marie-Laure DelieFWMontpellier2318/16
Eugenie Le SommerFWFCF Lyon2232/9
Gaetane ThineyFWJuvisy2546/19
Elodie ThomisFWFCF Lyon2450/14

Recent Matches:

6/18/11BelgiumFriendlyW 7-0
6/15/11BelgiumFriendlyW 2-1
5/18/11ScotlandFriendlyT 1-1
3/9/11ScotlandCyprusW 3-0
3/7/11New ZealandCyprusW 5-2
3/4/11HollandCyprusL 1-2
3/2/11SwitzerlandCyprusW 2-0
11/19/10PolandFriendlyW 5-0
9/15/10ItalyUEFA PlayoffW 3-2
9/11/10ItalyUEFA PlayoffT 0-0
8/25/10SerbiaUEFA WC QualifierW 7-0
8/21/10IcelandUEFA WC QualifierW 1-0
6/23/10EstoniaUEFA WC QualifierW 6-0
6/20/10CroatiaUEFA WC QualifierW 3-0
5/5/10SwitzerlandFriendlyW 2-0

The French team is known for their technical skills. It will take every ounce of technical skill and then some to advance out of what might be the toughest group at the World Cup. Germany might be the best in the world right now, Canada is a very tough side, and Nigeria has the ability to upset any team that takes them too lightly.

The French have not been as busy as some of the other teams entering the World Cup. Outside of the Cyprus Cup, they have played only a handful of matches since they qualified last September. They’ve only faced one other team that will be at this World Cup in the last 20 months, that being New Zealand. One has to wonder if they have faced enough top competition to prepare them for what they will be facing in Germany.

Most of the French team is in their mid-20’s and in their prime. This includes players like Camille Abily, Gaetane Thiney, Louisa Necib, Laura Georges, Corine Franco, Ophelie Meilleroux, Elodie Thomis, and Elise Bussaglia. They are used to playing together, all coming from four teams in the French league. This team has the ability to make some noise in this tournament.

Sandrine Soubeyrand is the elder statewoman of French soccer. At age 37, she has 160 caps to her credit, making her debut in 1997. She is one of five players on this team that were on the French 2003 World Cup squad, the only other time France has made it this far.

Another one of those five is former WPS star Sonia Bompastor. Fans here in the states will remember her displaying her talent for the Washington Freedom. She was one of the best all-around players in the league in her two years here.

Berangere Sapowicz was also on that 2003 team when she was just 20 years old. At the time, she was the goalkeeper for the U-19 team, but made only one appearance on the senior team before being named to the French World Cup team. She did not appear in any matches in that World Cup, nor for the national team over the next six years. But as qualification began in late 2009, she took over as the number one keeper and hasn’t looked back. She will be facing world class strikers in Group A such as Inka Grings and Christine Sinclair.

But with all of the veteran talent on the French team, the player to watch could well be Marie-Laure Delie. At 23, Delie made her debut with the senior French team just two years ago. She is averaging a goal every 36 minutes played since then. After two recent matches against Belgium, she has scored 11 goals in her last five matches, including three hat tricks.

This team is solid enough to advance into the quarterfinals and maybe beyond. But getting out of the group stage will be quite a task to start with. They open against Nigeria on June 26, a match in which they must post a victory if they are to have a solid chance of advancing. If France can open with two strong matches against Nigeria and Canada, they would relieve a lot of pressure that the third match against Germany could bring.

Note: Some information for this article was obtained at www.fifa.com and www.statfootofeminin.fr.