- Les Bleues beaten in the quarter-finals in last five major competitions
- USA their nemesis on this occasion
- Tournament hosts hoping the women’s game will now take off in France
By Emma Hingant with France
“It’s the same old story,” said Wendie Renard, the scorer of four goals at the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™, including the late header that gave the hosts hope of a comeback against USA in Friday’s quarter-final, only for time to run out on them.
That same old story began in 2013, when France went out in the quarter-finals of UEFA Women’s EURO. Since then they have suffered four more consecutive last-eight eliminations at major tournaments: the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015, the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Rio 2016 (a competition the French will not be gracing at Tokyo 2020), UEFA Women’s EURO 2017, and now France 2019.
The American dream
When the Final Draw for France 2019 was made on 8 December last year, it threw up the distinct possibility of the hosts taking on the holders and world number ones in the quarter-finals. “When you’re the host nation and you end up getting USA in the last eight, it’s not exactly a gift,” lamented France coach Corinne Diacre, who was otherwise anxious not to seek excuses for her side’s exit.
Diacre had spoken to her players in depth about the threat posed by the Stars and Stripes: “We analysed the statistics and they told us that the Americans perform really well in the first quarter of an hour. We switched off and we paid dearly for it. That’s the lesson the Americans taught us again tonight: it all comes down to the details.”
Diacre, who has been in the post since 2017, is sure to learn other lessons from the evening, though she also tried to emphasise the positive aspects of her side’s performance. After all, the French had in no way let themselves down: “Despite it all, you could see that there wasn’t much between us and USA. I’ve been on the circuit for a few years now and I can tell you that I’ve never seen them finish up with five at the back. Never, ever.”
One mission accomplished
Many teams would be happy to take on the three-time world champions, four-time Olympic champions and all-round global icons of women’s football and push them all the way. Yet, while they are one day hoping to match the Americans on the pitch, Les Bleues, in hosting the tournament, are also aiming to encourage young girls across France to take up the game, an objective they can now say they have met.
“It’s been a fantastic experience because although we haven’t won the Cup, we have at least won the hearts of the French people,” said Les Bleues’ 29-year-old captain courageous, Amandine Henry. “We won’t forget that and we’d like to thank them from the bottom of our hearts. Unfortunately, we couldn’t make it, but we did give our all. We’ll try to come back stronger.”
Judging by the glint in the eyes of the fans at the four stadiums where they played and right across France, they are stronger already.