France Is Riding The High Of Defeating A Shitty Boss
11:46 AM EDT on July 10, 2023
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Nothing connects the young'uns to sport quite like a player revolt, especially when the revolt is so comprehensive that even the people who hired the coach decide they need to fire the coach. Even though the French Football Federation warned the players that radical notions like quitting would not be tolerated, they tolerated the hell out of this one because, well, the World Cup is coming, so Corinne Diacre had to be going.
Whether this suddenly makes the French players both happy and formidable remains to be seen, but they're certainly not as miserable because they all came back, starting with team captain Wendie Renard, who was the first to walk and the loudest to talk. As she is also considered the world's best center back, her return and those of fellow conscientious objectors Marie-Antoinette Katoto and Kadidiatou Diani can only serve to legitimize their place as a contender.
France emerged as a women's football power 12 years ago when it finished fourth at the World Cup, but the road since then has been festooned with land mines, starting at the top, where FFF president Noël Le Graët resigned amid charges of sexual harassment and bullying in February, followed by Diacre's dismissal days later. The repopulated French hierarchy has been careful to keep the peace with the players, and new coach Hervé Renard (no relation) seems so far to have the side on his side.
Renard, one of the rare contemporary football figures to leave Saudi Arabia rather than go there, left the Saudi men's national team to take the French job, and has minimal time to get his squad up to working speed and comprehension. But though he has little experience on the women's side, he has a seemingly huge advantage by being consistently not Diacre. Even if this isn't a long-haul hire, he probably doesn't have time to make them object to him and very well might be a reason why they coalesce in time to make the deep run expected of them. Let's win it for not her is as good a motivational speech as the players will hear this month.
Who Is Their Star?
Renard, a (cliche looms here) towering presence at 6-foot-2, has been the best player France has ever produced, and at age 32 seems to have lost almost none of either tower or presence.
She shows little indication that she is losing anything, and is the heart of a well-experienced group whose most impactful players—Diani and Eugénie Le Sommer—are north of 25. The wild card is late injuries to midfielders Amandine Henry and Oriane Jean-François that bumped them from the squad, which means that France's considerable cohesion will be challenged, thus placing more emphasis on Renard's command.
Tell Me About A Cool Youngster
Right back Selma Bacha, at age 22, is one of France's two excellent fullbacks, the other being Sakina Karchaoui, and if cool fullbacks seem like a contraction in terms (and they shouldn't, quite honestly), the slightly more experienced 26-year-old midfielder Grace Geyoro might work, given that she has impressed in both of Hervé Renard's two games in charge.
Who Is Their Enemy?
Now that the FFF has been brought to heel and Diacre is now out of their hair, the most obvious answer is Hervé Renard. If they have had enough time to figure out how this all works, then that first answer is wrong, and the alternate answer is Germany, whom they could meet in the semis if all goes to plan. But first the French have to navigate the new coach and his relative inexperience at this level of the women's game.
National Folk Hero Who I Think Is Cool
Depends on how you define "hero," I suppose, but let's play our game anyway. Yannick Noah, the former tennis great, branched out to become a singer and operates a charity while captaining France's Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup teams, and also helped create Joakim Noah. Tony Parker helped introduce America to the joys of Gregg Popovich's interviewing technique. Or if you're not the sporty type, you can have singer Charlotte Gainsbourg or actress Marion Cotillard, unless you're a historical nerd in which you can have Charlemagne. But knowing you lot and how you view heroism, let's just say Andre The Giant and call it a day.
Scran Or Not Scran: National Dish Edition
We're talking French food here, so unless you picked it up off the street you're not likely to go wrong, but since this came from a Youtube account called "The Scran Line," this fruit tart will do as well as anything—as long as you are properly stocked with enough Kronenbourg to make you forget you're eating fruit while watching a sporting event.
What Would A Successful World Cup Look Like For This Team?
Anything less than a trip to the semifinal would be considered insufficient for a team whose current window may be shrinking and whose goalkeeping questions have not yet been fully resolved. They will also miss Katoto, who crumpled a knee last year and didn't make the final 23. Still, after bowing out in the quarterfinals in the past two World Cups, their trip to the semis of the 2022 Euros suggest they still have some serious bump in them.