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France aiming to make a big splash this summer

FIFA Women's World Cup 2015: France fixtures schedule, location, squad

May 31, 2015 By Michelle Bonsu
France are only making their third WWC apperance in Canada this summer but are widely viewed as serious contenders to win it.

Every World Cup, there is a team that aims to surprise the field. Sometimes they do, other times they do not. Four years ago, it was Japan, who seemingly came out of nowhere to defeat the tournament favourites USA and Germany and more experienced side Sweden en route to winning their first ever title. And despite it being their sixth appearance, Japan's success was truly shocking as prior to then, they had exited from the group stages in their last three successive World Cups.

This summer, France will be aiming to join that elite group of women's teams with a World Cup winner's medal. Yet unlike Japan, Les Bleues are only making their third appearance, but have enjoyed some fair success at recent tournaments. A fourth-placed finish in 2011 was followed up by another fourth-placed result at the London Olympic Games, and they made it to the quarter-finals of the 2013 EURO tournament.

However, whilst this would be good enough for many other teams, France wants more. Philippe Bergeroo, who took over from Bruno Bini in 2013, brings a wealth of experience having served as the goalkeeping coach of the men's squad that won the World Cup in 1998. And as the hosts of the next women's World Cup, France's ladies will certainly enjoy kicking things off at home as the reigning world champions.

Not surprisingly, like many of the top European sides, including Germany and England, France breezed through their qualifying group with a perfect win record, scoring 54 goals and conceding just three across their ten games.

They also performed solidly at the recent Algarve Cup, a tournament in which all but two teams - Portugal and Denmark - will be at this summer's World Cup. Despite losing to the USWNT in the final it was nonetheless encouraging as they had handed the Stars and Stripes their first defeat in 2015 back in February. And this past fall, they were able to defeat top ranked side Germany, a first in the team's history.

Currently ranked no. 3 in the world, France will be expected to back this up with a good performance in Canada this summer, and here are a few players who the team will be definitely counting on.

Midfielder: Louisa Necib

One cannot talk about French women's football without mentioning Olympique Lyon star Louisa Necib. In the earlier stages of her career, the 28-year-old was referred to as the "female Zidane" due to her Algerian background, Marseille roots and playing style. She has 32 goals so far for Les Bleues and her playmaking skills have contributed to Lyon's winning a whopping eight straight league crowns, five Coupe de France trophies, and two consecutive Champions League titles.

During qualifying she contributed to four goals for the team and her colleagues will be relying on her to pick out the perfect pass as they expect to qualify alongside England from group F.

Striker: Eugenie Le Sommer

For a playmaker to be successful, he or she has to be linked up with at least one or more good strikers, and in this case, Necib's partner in crime is her club teammate Eugenie Le Sommer. Since linking up with her international colleague after joining Lyon in 2010, Le Sommer has been firing in the goals at an impressive rate, with a total of 146 in 159 appearances across all competitions. This season alone saw her net 38 in 30, with her 29 league goals placing her second behind teammate Lotta Schelin's 34 (who will be representing Sweden in this summer's tournament).

Le Sommer, who scored seven during the qualifying rounds will be partnered up front with Gaëtane Thiney, who just so happens to be France's top scorer with 14 goals over the course of their ten matches. With Necib pulling the strings, it is indeed easy to see why many teams will be wary of their offensive firepower, but they are no slouch defensively, either.

By far and large the star in defense is Wendie Renard, who at just 24 years of age not just serves as her national team's captain, but is also the skipper of OL. The powerful centre-back, who stands at 6 ft 2 inches, making her among the tallest playesr in women's football, is an experienced veteran at club level and is the only player to feature in all nine of Lyon's championship-winning seasons to date. During France's 2-0 friendly win over the USWNT, she was praised for her physicality and able to handle powerful striker Abby Wambach - something that many women's defenders, due to Wambach's height, are unable to do.

Despite her young age, Renard has shown already that she can mix it with the best players in the game

France will commence their pursuit of their first World Cup title by taking on the Three Lionesses in Moncton at Moncton Stadium on June 9th and face Colombia at the same stadium four days after that. Then, it's off to Ottawa, where they conclude their group stage campaign at the Lansdowne Stadium against Mexico.

Here are the players who will be representing Les Bleues this summer in Canada:

Goalkeepers: Sarah Bouhaddi (OL), Celine Deville (Juvisy), Meline Gerard (OL)

Defenders: Laura Georges (PSG), Wendie Renard (OL), Laure Boulleau (PSG), Jessica Houara-D’hommeaux (PSG), Sabrina Delannoy (PSG), Gridege M’Bock Bathy (Guingamp), Anaig Butel (Juvisy), Amel Majri (OL)

Midfielders: Louisa Necib (OL), Camille Abily (OL), Amandine Henry (OL), Elodie Thomis (OL), Elise Bussaglia (OL), Keira Hamraoui (PSG), Kenza Dali (PSG), Claire Lavogez (Montpellier)

Forwards: Eugenie Le Sommer (OL), Gaëtane Thiney (Juvisy), Marie-Laure Delie (PSG), Kadidiatou Diani (Juvisy)

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