Euro 2022: Can France overcome troubled past to win first major tournament?

Euro 2022: Can France overcome troubled past to win first major tournament?


France team ahead of the World Cup quarter-final defeat to the USA
France were knocked out by eventual winners the United States in the quarter-finals of the 2019 World Cup
Date: Sunday, 10 July Venue: New York Stadium, Rotherham Kick-off: 20:00 BST
Coverage: BBC Two from 19:45 BST and live text coverage on the BBC Sport website and app

France are ranked third in the world and have some of the most talented players in Europe – so why have they never won a women’s major tournament?

Off-field distractions and controversies, mixed with disappointing results in past tournaments, has led to many writing them off this summer – but will they produce the goods at Euro 2022?

‘We need to find a way to do better’

Kenza Dali
Kenza Dali joined Everton in 2021 after two years at West Ham

France have never been ranked outside the world’s top 10 and have sat fourth or higher since 2018.

A large number of the squad play their club football with Lyon, who have won six of the past seven Champions League titles – including five in a row before 2020 – and they are captained by France centre-back Wendie Renard.

Marie-Antoinette Katoto, 23, who is already Paris St-Germain’s all-time top scorer, has also won the Division 1 Feminine Golden Boot in three of the past four seasons.

So why have they not translated club success to the international stage?

“If I had the answer it would be good for us,” France midfielder Kenza Dali told BBC Sport.

“A lot of people [in France] see us as a favourite, but I don’t understand why because there are so many teams who have won trophies and we have never. We have never reached a final.

“Maybe it’s because the French teams have done well in the Champions League, but the national team is completely different. We will be ready for this competition but we need to find a way to collectively do better than the last one.”

Dali said there are “already big expectations” because the French people demand success.

“We’re happy with that and we take it,” she said. “It’s not about the pressure because we have a lot of experienced players who play in big games with their clubs.

“I don’t have the answer to why we don’t step up, but I really hope it is going to be the year for us. We’re not hiding, but we are also not sure of saying we are the favourites of the competition.”

‘Diacre is demanding but we need that’

Corinne Diacre
France manager Corinne Diacre has been in charge since 2017

Manager Diacre has long been in the headlines – she became the first woman to coach a men’s professional team when she took over Clermont Foot for three years.

However, her cut-throat management style and a number of controversial decisions have caused a stir.

In 2017, she stripped Renard of the France captaincy. In 2019, she left Katoto out of the World Cup squad. After their quarter-final exit, she criticised Eugenie le Sommer for not following tactics which surprised the Lyon forwardexternal-link. In 2020, Amandine Henry – Diacre’s captain in 2019 – was dropped from the squad after the midfielder claimed it was “total chaos”external-link in camp.

Champions League winners Le Sommer and Henry will not be going to Euro 2022.

But Dali said her relationship with Diacre is “really good” and she is the type of manager France needs.

“We know each other better now. [Diacre] is just a normal person,” said Dali. “I know in France the media are really hard with her. She has a really big background that talks for her in football.

“She is someone who knows what she wants and is really demanding but I feel like we need that.

“Credit to her for going through everything in the last few years – especially after the World Cup – and for still being here.”

It is perhaps understandable that the team has not performed with so much going on off the pitch, but Dali said it has not been a distraction.

“When you play for France you get used to having a lot of media around you. I don’t think there is a question of us being weak mentally or anything like this,” she said.

“We already asked ourselves ‘what is the problem?’ The group has changed a lot. We have a new generation that are really strong. When you change the group and players it brings you something different, so we will see.”

‘Renard is a proper leader and captain’

Wendie Renard
Wendie Renard has won 14 league titles and eight European Cups with Lyon

That new generation have shown plenty of promise so far.

France have not lost since a 2-0 defeat by the USA in April 2021, they won the Tournoi de France and are top of their World Cup qualifying group, winning every game.

Katoto and Paris St-Germain team-mate Sandy Baltimore, 22, have formed a strong partnership in attack.

Melvine Malard, 22, Selma Bacha, 21, and Delphine Cascarino, 25, all started Lyon’s Champions League win over Barcelona and are in good form.

However, Dali said captain Renard remains “the most important player” to France, and expects her to have a huge influence at Euro 2022.

“It’s amazing playing with her. There is so much quality. When you go to the national team the training is another level. Wendie is a leader,” said Dali.

“Every conversation I have with Wendie is amazing. She is so inspirational. She is someone that does not need to speak as you already see her focus. She is the first and last at training – she works so hard.

“People see her personality as really strong – and she is – but she’s also a really nice person. She’s a natural leader and a proper captain.”

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