Ashby-de-la-Zouch. The small town is nestled in the heart of England. This is where the footballers of the France team established their base camp on Tuesday, July 5. It’s time for final adjustments on the eve of the start of the Women’s Euro (until July 31). For Les Bleues, the first meeting is set for Sunday July 10, with a match against Italy. They will approach it with a series of fourteen victories in a row, including the last two in friendly matches against Cameroon (4-0) on June 25 and Vietnam (7-0) on July 1.

Third in the FIFA rankings, the France team has lost only once since the 2019 World Cup at home, in April 2021, against the United States (2-0). If we rely on these recent results, the Habs, also assured, since April, of their qualification for the 2023 World Cup – which was “the first objective of the year”, according to the coach, Corinne Deacon – pose as serious contenders for the continental title.

The president of the French Football Federation, Noël Le Graët, does not hesitate to clearly display the ambitions: “This is the year where ever, we have a team above the rest and which has just won big games,” he told Le Monde. For her part, Corinne Deacon is more cautious, evoking a “beautiful Euro, very very tight” and the objective of “going as far as possible”.

At the end of the contract after the English Euro, the coach has the support of the tricolor football boss. Noël Le Graët indeed indicated, Thursday July 7 on France 2, that Corinne Deacon, in her post since 2017, would be “surely renewed, until the end of the World Cup at least”.

Experience and youth

A major result across the Channel would mark an unprecedented shift in the history of Les Bleues. The latter have never done better than a quarter-final in the European Championship or fourth places in the World Cup (2011) and the Olympic Games (2012). “We’ve been crying for too long, and we would like to cry with joy one day”, recalled in the program “Téléfoot”, on TF1, on June 19, the Lyon defender Griedge Mbock, who has been playing with the Bleues since 2013.

To approach this Euro, Corinne Deacon has formed a group combining experience and youth: the average age is substantially identical to that of the 2019 World Cup (around 26 years old). The coach, however, made the choice to dismiss certain players and not the least: Amandine Henry (32 years old, 93 caps) and Eugénie Le Sommer (33 years old, 175 caps), top scorer in the history of Les Bleues (86 goals) , with whom tensions had been building since the 2019 World Cup.

“We trusted the players with whom we have been building this team for a few months. We wanted to stay on a certain balance, assumed Corinne Deacon by presenting her list of selected, on May 30. We have experience, but it was important to regenerate this workforce. Of the 23 players selected, only 11 were present at the World Cup at home.

“The team is stronger than in 2019. There is more talent, it’s much more complete,” said Gilles Eyquem, who led the national women’s under-19 and 20 teams between 2012 and 2020. , saw 16 of the 23 selected pass under his orders.

“The 1994-95 generation are World Under-17 Champions, European Under-19 Champions, and World Under-20 Championship Bronze Medalists. These are girls who are attracted to titles, “adds the coach, according to whom, however, the challenge will be to control” the pressure, because there is no title, so a lot of waiting “. But “there is not much missing” for the selection to win a first trophy, he underlines.

“Deficits on certain items”

“The goal is to be ready to do six times ninety minutes.” The warning issued by Corinne Deacon on June 14, at the end of the first preparation course in Anglet (Pyrénées-Atlantiques), was not trivial. At the 2019 World Cup, some players – those playing in Lyon in particular – had arrived physically diminished, marked by a long season.

This year, the management of the Blue believes to have recovered players in good physical condition, despite small alerts at the end of the season (Selma Bacha or Marie-Antoinette Katoto). All of the selected participants responded positively to the first intensive workload offered during the preparation course on the shores of the Atlantic.

“We don’t have a big bench depth so it won’t take too many injuries during the competition, however, warns former international Camille Abily. Corinne Deacon must be able to rely on a good core of 12-13 players who have the highest international level. »

This is precisely one of the limits of French women’s football, which has not always had a sufficient pool to shine in major tournaments, which partly explains its chronic inability to go far in competitions. “There are still some deficits in certain positions, such as that of goalkeeper, where the contenders are not legion, details Gilles Eyquem. The positions on the corridors are also complicated. We must focus our work on this so that we no longer have these shortcomings in the future. »

Despite everything, Les Bleues can rely on a backbone of players from Olympique Lyonnais and Paris-Saint-Germain: these two clubs, which dominate French football – and European football for Lyon, eight times winner of the League of champions – provide 10 of the 23 internationals selected. Which makes ex-international Aline Riera say that the France team “has the ingredients to go to the end” of the Euro, a competition “more difficult to win than a World Cup, because it includes all the gratin , except the United States.

Even if she is very careful in her communication, Corinne Deacon has in any case set a “common objective with the players”: “To meet at Wembley on July 31 for the final. »