Meet the World Cup favorites: Can host France withstand lofty expectations?

By
Updated: June 6, 2019

With the Women’s World Cup just days away, we’re taking an in-depth look at the five perceived favorites by examining their strengths, weaknesses, and title prospects. Today, we’re analyzing host nation France.

Fact file

  • FIFA ranking: No. 4
  • Best World Cup finish: Fourth place (2011)
  • Manager: Corinne Diacre

What you need to know

For a France side that hasn’t progressed beyond the quarterfinals in any recent tournament, the World Cup on home soil presents an opportunity to overcome some disappointing showings.

The 2016 Olympics and 2017 Euros weren’t exactly inspired displays, and with coach Corinne Diacre tasked with matching counterpart Didier Deschamps’ successful World Cup in Russia, France will either thrive under the spotlight or buckle under the pressure.

Similarities between Diacre and Deschamps extend beyond roles bossing continental behemoths. Like Deschamps, Diacre has prioritized continuity and team play over individuality with the likes of Barcelona star Kheira Hamraoui and Paris Saint-Germain forward Marie Katoto left at home. Diacre will hope that French league-leading scorer Katoto’s omission won’t impact past failings up top.

FRANCK FIFE / AFP / Getty

Wasteful goal-scoring opportunities were largely to blame for the early dismissals in 2016 and 2017, though it appears as if Les Bleues have turned a corner in that regard, scoring at least once in 19 of their last 21 outings. Diacre has plenty to choose from in attack as well, with veteran star Eugenie Le Sommer highlighting a corps that also features Valerie Gauvin, Gaetane Thiney, Kadi Diani, and Delphine Cascarino.

Elsewhere, France is stacked. Former captain Wendie Renard and central defensive partner Griedge Mbock are the foundation of a robust spine that extends into the midfield with current skipper Amandine Henry and elder stateswoman Elise Bussaglia.

Diacre has the parts at her disposal to field the best side in this tournament, though it remains to be seen if the pressures associated with hosting football’s biggest contest will negatively affect Les Bleues. Also, those polka dot shirts are fire.

Group stage outlook

At first glance, France should face little resistance in topping Group A. The same may have been said in 2015 when Philippe Bergeroo’s charges finished joint-top of Group F, but it was far from an easy ask, especially after surprisingly getting bossed by Colombia. South Korea, Norway, and Nigeria will be looking to spoil the festivities.

Fourteenth-ranked South Korea will attempt to do no worse than the knockout round progression they established in 2015, and for Norway, there’s heaps of pressure to revive a once-elite national team program. Nigeria is one of seven nations to qualify for every World Cup, though it’s been 20 years since the Super Falcons have made it beyond the groups.

Projected starting XI

Key player: Eugenie Le Sommer

Jean Catuffe / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Take your pick here. Henry could easily get the nod, but considering how pivotal converting chances in front of goal will be for Les Bleues, Le Sommer’s strike rate of one goal every two matches could prove critical. Recent winner of a sixth Champions League crown at Lyon, vice-captain Le Sommer, 30, also provides a veteran presence for an attack that skews younger.

Part of Le Sommer’s threat stems from an ability to hit the leather off the ball with either the left or right foot, and her control in tight confines is among the best at this summer’s World Cup. Capable as both an attacking midfielder and playing as a second striker, Le Sommer should be one of the stars of the tournament.

Breakout star: Delphine Cascarino

FRANCK FIFE / AFP / Getty

Le Sommer’s Les Fenottes teammate Cascarino is poised to have a massive World Cup. Whether she starts on the right wing or platoons with Diani, Cascarino, 22, has enjoyed a noteworthy rise following a maiden senior selection in 2016. Her ability to switch flanks makes her that much more dangerous.

Technically astute, Cascarino is a proficient and at times saucy dribbler and crosser of the ball who routinely finds targets on cutbacks from the end line. Prepare the nutmeg counter for the star-to-be who first landed on the national team map after guiding France to a successful Under-17 World Cup in 2012.

Fans should be happy if …

France surpasses its best World Cup finish of fourth in 2011. A podium finish should be a bare minimum for a side that’s stormed through its pre-tournament tuneups, with six wins out of seven in the calendar year (France lost 1-0 to Germany in February).

With a previous dearth of goals now seemingly corrected courtesy of 21 scored in its last seven matches (including a 3-1 win over tournament favorites the United States), France has all the parts at its disposal to win its first-ever World Cup on July 7 in the capital. Bonne chance, Les Bleues.

Translate »