the beginning of an adventure on the other side of the world after six eventful months on the Blue Planet

The 2023 World Cup kicks off in New Zealand and Australia on Thursday. For France, who play against Jamaica on Sunday, it’s the start of a tournament they’ve been waiting for after a long stormy period.

A first leap into the unknown. Arriving on July 15 in Sydney where they have established their base camp, the Bleues will watch behind their television co-hosts New Zealand (against Norway) and Australia (against Ireland) first steps in their World Cup on Thursday 20 July, with their entry into the race against Jamaica on Sunday 23 July in sight. A new adventure that marks several eventful months.

Leading this oceanic expedition, trainer Hervé Renard is not necessarily what was expected. Because at the end of Euro 2022, Corinne Deacon’s future seemed marked. For the first time in ten years, the former international, moreover vilified for her managerial practices, had just led a tricolor group to the last four of a major competition. Enough to guarantee her an extension until the 2024 Paris Olympics, in which she will not participate.

A climate long-time pestilent

Since taking office in 2017, relations between Corinne Deacon and her locker room have rarely been easy. The post-World Cup 2019 home aftermath, described as“sporting failure” after the elimination against the Americans in the quarterfinals (2-1) she marked a turning point. Even if you had to wait for the tongues to loosen timidly. “I’ll be honest, it’s a scar that hasn’t healed yet, this World Cup world“, released goalkeeper Sarah Bouhhadi, announcing a break with the selection, at the end of July 2020.

Finally, it is Amandine Henry, who definitively breaks the abscess during an interview broadcast on November 15, 2020 by Canal +. Advised of the failure to select her during the previous gathering by a phone call from “14 or 15 seconds” of the coach, without being given any sporting reason, the Olympique Lyonnais midfielder reveals that he had previously spoken with Noël Le Graët, still president of the FFF, about the “heavy and negative feedback” of his teammates at the 2019 World Cup.

“Humanly, I’ve seen girls crying in their rooms. Personally, I’ve sometimes cried in my room because I wanted to experience this World Cup, but it was total chaos.”

Amandine Henry, former captain of the Bleues

to Channel+

Called back in the trial, she will never again set foot in the choice of Corinne Deacon’s mandate. Despite the presence of many Lyonnais within the national workforce, no rebellion broke out at the time. Almost surprising given the situation.

Kadidiatou Diani and Marie-Antoinette Katoto support Aminata Diallo during a goal celebration after Kheira Hamraoui's attack on February 22, 2022. (FRANCK FIFE/AFP)

The climate in Les Bleues gave up again when the former Clermont coach selected the PSG player Kheira Hamraoui in February 2022. Taken in an ambush and beaten with an iron bar for four months, the midfielder saw, from the bench, his teammates, Kadidiatou Diani and Marie-Antoinete Katoto, celebrating a goal against Holland. A “A” with your fingers. A way to protest against the choice of Corinne Deacon by supporting another Parisian, Aminata Diallo, suspected of having ordered the attack and absent from the selection.

The spark Wendie Renard

All these past incidents could have triggered a much earlier crisis within the French team. In the end it is Captain Wendie Renard, whose armband Corinne Deacon had initially removed upon his arrival, who ignites the powder. “This type of match is not possible. You must alert”it plagued the defender after two troubling defeats against Germany and Sweden in autumn 2022. After again sluggish performances at the Tournoi de France, the influential Lyonnaise announced she would withdraw from the selection on 24 February.

“I can no longer approve the current system away from the requirements demanded by the highest level. It is a sad day but necessary to preserve my sanity”, writes on his social networks. She was soon joined by several of her partners five months before the World Cup, including starting striker Marie-Antoinette Katoto, but also Kadidiatou Diani, who she had preferred “refrain from commenting to avoid being vulgar” a few days earlier, when AFP asked him to comment on yet another return of Kheira Hamraoui.

“The captain intervened realizing that we could not win a major competition in these conditions”analyze after the fact Patrice Lair, the coach of Bordeaux, regretting however that no player has “followed by Amandine Henry two and a half years earlier”. In addition to the denunciation of a “system”this position is an opportunity to put pressure on Corinne Deacon at a time when her main ally, Noël Le Graët, appears to be weakened within the Federation.

Corinne Deacon and Noël Le Graët at Clairefontaine, June 4, 2019. (FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

“It’s a good story timing. Not only was Noël Le Graët in trouble on the side of the FFF. What’s more, the only person capable of representing French women’s football, Jean-Michel Aulas, was preparing to leave OL. Corinne Deacon did not match the new decor that would be installed”summarizes Hubert Artus, historian of women’s football and author of the book Girl Power: 150 years of women’s football.

“In hindsight, we can say that Wendie Renard played it the Swedish way continues, pushing the analysis. In Latin countries such as France, feminism asserts itself more on the claim of freedoms related to the body and sexuality. But in the Scandinavian countries, it consists rather of integrating the head of the institutions and taking the candies. By threatening not to play, that’s exactly what Wendie Renard did. Strategically it’s quite good because he ended up hitting where it hurt the most, aiming for the coach.”

Hervé Renard to liven up the dressing room

The shockwave takes effect quickly. A press release from the FFF recalls it “that no individuality is above the establishment of the French team”Corinne Deacon is thanked on March 9″in view of the widely publicized conflict between it and players”. Proposed to the interim presidency of 3F, Philippe Diallo – aided by Aline Riera and Jean-Michel Aulas in his capacity as head of the women’s football commission – must quickly find the identity of his successor.

It was then that Hervé Renard, despite himselfyears of experience with a women’s team, contact “JMA”. “I understand he didn’t believe it at first, until I confirmed my interest in person.will later describe the tactician in an interview with The magazine team. It was I who conveyed the message that I was a postulant. Even if no one had thought of me, I hoped there was a favorable echo.

Hervé Renard heads Saudi Arabia against Poland during the Men's World Cup in Qatar, November 26, 2022. (KHALED DESOUKI/AFP)

Once snatched from the Saudi selection, at the top of which Argentina fell to Qatar, the adoption of Cannes is framed at the top of the Azzurri, during a press conference, on March 31st. “We will have to create a united group. We are together, we are not divided, then hammers the man with the ironed white shirts. The staff and I are highly motivated. We can achieve great things if we are united, if we have an extraordinary frame of mind. That’s what I’m going to focus on.”

But not only that, as he himself said he does The magazine team referring to himself as “a kind of representative for women’s football”Hervé Renard has also come to give a new image to this French team.

“Hervé Renard is a good communicator. For the moment, the signs are good. He has all the credentials, in particular that of being more open with the press than his predecessor”.

Hubert Artus, writer and historian of women’s football

to franceinfo: sports

From words to deeds from the first meeting in April, during which attention was paid to the smallest details. On the one hand, the double African Cup of Nations winner allows Amel Majri to bring her baby girl, Maryam, to Clairefontaine. Something to soften and unite the crowd around her mascot. On the other hand, she recalls long-sinced players, while the unavailable Amandine Henry is declared eligible again.

Eugénie Le Sommer and Hervé Renard after Lyonnaise drew 2-2 against Colombia, April 7, 2023. (FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

This new atmosphere is paying off in the field. For his first time on the bench, Hervé Renard sees his daughters, somewhat unbalanced, come back from 0-2 to 5-2 against Colombia, thanks in particular to two goals from the returning Eugénie Le Sommer. “He was the one who brought me back, I had to give him the ball back. It was a small gesture to say thank you”comments the top scorer in the history of the selection, after celebrating the draw with the new tactician.

A new prestigious victory against the Canadian Olympic champions in the title (2-1), the trio achieved in Ireland (0-3) and here is the capital of the Azzurri’s confidence swells again, despite the narrow defeat against Australia in Melbourne (1-0), on Friday, to close the preparation.

A cascade of injuries throws the Blues into limbo

A record sufficient to aim for the world title? It’s less noticeable given the large absences on each line. While Kadidiatou Diani recovered from a broken collarbone in time, Delphine Cascarino and Amandine Henry were last-minute additions to the long-standing packages of defender Griedge Mbock and striker Marie-Antoinette Katoto.

Victim of an ankle sprain against Australia (0-1), the versatile Selma Bacha, who started with a frame tag from the height of her 22 years, remained in the group and retains hope of returning to the field during the competition.

“We will miss many of our best players. But I think Hervé Renard still has the gift of making teams sublime. He has always managed to galvanize his groups among the boys. He has the possibility to compensate with something else.”

Patrice Lair, coach of the Bordeaux Girondins

to franceinfo: sports

“We must not forget that the federation implicitly has a twofold objective, also tempers the writer Hubert Artus. Playing well at the World Cup is important but not essential. The essential thing is to win the Olympics or at least get a medal.”

However, the announced goal for this summer is to reach the semi-finals. The French team would therefore do well to shine and definitively record its rebound in the land of kangaroos before planning Paris 2024. Above all, this requires a well-negotiated World Cup start, with a vastly reworked battle plan.

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