WC Countdown: Group A – France

France are the host’s of this year’s World Cup and therefore they are the first ones out in Group A. They will kick off the whole tournament when they meet South Korea in the first game at Parc des Princes in Paris, and set the tone for the upcoming games.

The home nation has been considered to be a favourite in previous tournaments due to their good results, often ending up in the quarter-finals of big tournaments like the World Cup, the Olympics and the Euros. However, it has not always been this way. During the 90’s, the French team did not qualify for a single World Cup out of the three that were held, and they did not qualify for their first European Championship until 1997. But in the last few years the team has gone from strength to strength, showing that they’re a force to be reckoned with. The appointment of trailblazing head coach Corinne Diacre (who was the first woman to coach a French men’s professional team) in 2017 has further set the tone of intent for this team. >>Here<< is an interesting interview with the coach where she addresses sexism in football, as well as the team’s goals for the upcoming World Cup.

The team has a lot of weight resting on their shoulders, as is when you’re the home nation, but further pressure was added this summer as the French men’s team managed to win the World Cup over in Russia. But they will have the benefit of being on homesoil and will have the home crowd backing them, a force that is not to be underestimated.

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Picture source: Federation Francaise de Football

The French team is studded with stars, taking their main batch of players from the French league Division 1 Féminin, with many of them coming from Olympique Lyonnais, one of the best club teams in the world and Amandine Henry, midfielder for OL, captaining the team. But she is accompanied by the likes of Wendie Renard, one of the most decorated defenders in football, goalkeeper veteran Sarah Bouhaddi, Eugénie Le Sommer – the attacking midfielder/second striker who is lethal in front of goal, but needs to recover from injury, and young defender Aïssatou Tounkara. The team has had a great year in terms of preparing for the World Cup, and they have played 10 games, won seven, drawn two and lost one, with 30 goals scored and seven goals conceded, which is a very positive side for the side going into the last months before the big tournament. But they still have some friendly games to play, and if one is interested the schedule can be found >>here<<, and they are kicking off the new year with an exciting game against the US on the 19th of January 2019.

Looking at the way Diacre has been playing during this past year, there have been a few different formations. The coach seems to find the 4-2-3-1 a good fit for her team, employing three at the back and using two wingbacks that can work up and down the flanks, and it’s the most frequently used formation. But she could also resort to playing with a 3-4-3 or a 3-4-2-1, depending on her options in the squad.

The French will go up against strong opposition, as there are many teams with the will to power through to the very end and win the title, with the likes of USA (reigning World Champions), Germany (reigning Olympic Champions), Netherlands (reigning European Champions), Japan (2011 World Champions) and Brazil (reigning Copa America Champions) all viable title contenders. There’s also the possibility to see other strong teams like Sweden, England and Australia.

Their toughest group match on paper is likely to be against Norway, who are a regular at the tournament (they’ve never failed to qualify for the competition), won it back in 1995, and have a good record against the French (three wins, three losses and four draws). But to ensure advancement from the group, they’ll have to penetrate South Korea’s tight defence, as well as get points from the African champions Nigeria.

Is France a possible contender for the World Cup title? Discuss in the comments below! This is the first part in my countdown to the World Cup in June – read more about it >>here!<<

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