With her youthful features, soft-spoken voice and shy disposition, Delphine Cascarino is not the type who revels in having the spotlight turned on her. However, France's No20 is arguably the most promising player in her nation’s FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup contingent. At 15 years of age, she is also the youngest, a status she might have had to share, had her twin sister and team-mate, Estelle, managed to earn a place in the squad.
Like many twins, the sisters are inseparable, especially where football is concerned. Born in Saint-Priest in 1997, they discovered the delights of kicking a ball together as young girls. Many years later, they walked side by side as they entered the youth academy in nearby Lyon, home of the multiple French champions, following which they then also both broke into France’s U-16 women’s squad.
“My sister and I get on really well," she said. "We’re different, but we complement each other. It’s the same on the pitch – I play on the right and up front, and she plays on the left and at the back.” And it was her sibling’s specific position that would prove to be problematic in the end.
Unfortunately for Estelle, France U-17 women’s coach Guy Ferrier was spoilt for choice when it came to compiling his list of defenders ahead of Azerbaijan 2012. And although he decided to include younger players such as Amandine Blanc, Onema Geyoro and Juliane Gathrat, thereby blurring the lines between the U-16 and U-17 squads, the Frenchman chose to leave out Estelle Cascarino.
“My sister isn’t too disappointed, especially as she’s currently with our back-up U-17 side that’s competing in the first round of the European Championship in Lithuania. Most importantly, she’s simply happy for me,” explained the wide player, and she is not alone in that respect.
Cascarino appears to have won over her new team-mates in a short space of time. Team captain Sandie Toletti is part of her newly acquired fan club: “It’s brilliant that we’ve discovered her, given that she wasn’t part of the group at the last European Championship,” she told FIFA.com.
“She’s started the tournament really well, and I hope for her sake as well as ours that she can continue in the same vein. She’s already a great player, despite her young age,” continued the skipper.
Evidently, age is not a handicap for the player in question. “It suits me to be younger than everyone else here. Traditionally, it’s the more experienced girls that you count on to make the difference, rather than the younger ones," said Cascarino. "That takes quite a bit of pressure off me, especially when you realise that appearing at a World Cup like this can be stressful, even if it’s also a magical experience.”
Handed a place in the starting line-up for Les Bleuettes’ opening 0-0 draw with USA, Cascarino put in an impressive showing in her competition debut. During her 85 minutes on the pitch, her bag of tricks – which included some remarkable side-steps and drag-backs – gave opposite number Brittany Bassinger a difficult time of it down their flank.
“I was satisfied with my performance, even though I didn’t do as well in the second half as I did in the first,” she explained, adding, “But I’ve still got a lot of work to do, particularly where my left foot – my weaker foot – and my finishing are concerned.”
In the subsequent 1-1 stalemate with Korea DPR, Ferrier opted to use Cascarino as an impact player, bringing her off the bench in the 64th minute to replace Pauline Cousin, the team’s oldest performer. She was once again outstanding, but was unable to assist her side in breaking the deadlock.
The inconvenient result does not bother the Lyon midfielder, who is confident of progressing further in the event. “I still think we’ll go far!” she said.
In order to advance in the tournament, France would surely benefit from Cascarino adding a goal or two to her already formidable all-round displays. To qualify for the knockout stage without needing to worry about the result of Group B’s other match between Korea DPR and United States, the French will need to score 11 more goals than opponents Gambia. What is more, in an appropriate quirk of fate, the African nation's squad also contains two twin sisters: Awa and Adama Tamba.