Lyon connection could take France far at Women’s World Cup
Friday’s 4-0 home win against South Korea saw the blue shirts of France run riot, just like many of them had done last month when Lyon crushed Barcelona 4-1 to win the Champions League for the fourth straight year and sixth in the past eight.
France’s lineup featured seven Lyon players, and how coach Reynald Pedros thoroughly enjoyed it at Parc des Princes.
Delighted by what he saw, but probably not surprised.
It was not just the two brilliant headed goals from imposing center half Wendie Renard, but also the classy finishing of prolific forward Eugénie Le Sommer; added to the infectious verve, and relentless drive, of powerful midfielder Amandine Henry.
Leaders with Lyon paving the way with Les Bleues.
“That’s what we’re trying to do, pass on the confidence we’ve gained from the Champions League,” Le Sommer said. “The Lyon players were decisive, but it’s a team effort.”
No wonder France is confident of a first World Cup triumph, 21 years after the men’s side won it for the first time as hosts.
Le Sommer’s early strike and Henry’s late fourth goal showed the deep understanding built by years of Lyon success, in Europe and also domestically with an astonishing 13 straight French titles since 2007.
Le Sommer ghosted in at the back post to meet the overlapping Henry’s excellent cross from right in the ninth minute.
Then, in the 85th there she was again, using her strength to fend off two defenders, thus allowing Henry to push up and curl in a superb goal in off the right post from just outside the penalty area.
Le Sommer has 75 international goals — 10 more than superstar Lionel Messi.
“Yes, it’s not bad,” she said, laughing. “But I don’t want to stop there.”
She has the uncanny gift of timing runs.
“It’s about sensing where the ball is going to end up and it worked out,” Le Sommer said. “I had to put myself in the right position. Amandine knows my abilities well, and may have known where I was going to be.”
That surgically precise Lyon teamwork again.
And then there’s Renard, unstoppable on set pieces.
Using her 6-foot-2 frame to powerfully head home twice from corners, she took her international tally to 22 goals — her second header assisted by Lyon teammate Amel Majri.
She also set up another goal in the first half, with a header across the box, and after combing with Henry, no less. But Griedge Mbock Bathy’s effort was offside following a video review.
In fact, the only goal not featuring only Lyon players was Gaëtane Thiney’s corner for Renard’s first header after 35 minutes.
Thiney plays for first division rival Paris FC, but can hardly overlook the impact of Lyon’s players.
“Of course they’re an enormous asset,” she said. “Players who are winning trophy after trophy, passing this on to us.”
Montpellier striker Valerie Gauvin agrees.
“They’re all leaders,” she said. “They bring their experience of the big competitions and we’re following their example.”
A TOUGH CALL
Coach Corinne Diacre showed a steely streak dropping Gauvin, reportedly for poor timekeeping in preparations for the game.
Although Diacre insisted it was “simply a tactical decision on my behalf” unrelated to lateness issues, Gauvin said it was.
“Timekeeping. Not training itself, but timekeeping,” Gauvin told reporters. “It’s my fault.”
Gauvin came on as a second-half substitute and was bitterly disappointed not to start.
“Yes, I won’t hide that. But that’s the way it goes, I’ll accept it,” she said. “I will learn the lesson.”
She wants to win her place back for next Wednesday’s home game against Group A rival Norway in Nice.
“The competition is long and we’re going to need everyone,” Gauvin said. “I was behind the team and I’m happy for those who played.”
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT?
France’s World Cup started perfectly.
Or did it?
“We have things to improve,” Thiney said. “We could have played through the middle a bit more and with more variety.”
At least Norway has been warned.