Having missed out on only one of the three previous editions of the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup, France go into the competition as one of the most experienced sides on show. Their first participation coincided with the tournament's debut in 2002, when Les Bleuettes found themselves undone by the draw itself. Dropped in at the deep end, the French beat section rivals Mexico but lost to eventual semi-finalists Brazil and Germany to exit at the group stage. Four years later in Russia, they managed to pass that initial hurdle only to come unstuck against Korea DPR, the champions-in-waiting.
Being able to book their place at Chile 2008 was obviously satisfying for France, but overall their showing at the 2007 UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship in Iceland left a bitter taste in the mouth. Having finished runners-up on the two previous occasions, the French were beaten by Germany in the last four, losing 4-2 after extra time despite leading by two goals at one point. That disappointment came just a year after defeat by the same opponents in the 2006 final, all of which means France will be desperate to exact revenge.
Though underwhelming, their semi-final finish in Iceland also sealed their passage to Chile, and the French travel with some serious arguments in their favour: namely, mental strength, an experienced team and a prodigious goalscorer in Marie-Laure Delie. In qualifying, Les Bleuettes saw off Spain 1-0 in their opener before going down 3-1 to England. With their backs to the wall going into the final group encounter, Amandine Henry and Co rose to the challenge with a 4-0 win over Poland.
As they prepare their bid for the global title, the French have been placing much emphasis on their experience. "We'll be disputing our second World Cup in a row and that proves France now belong in the European elite," declared coach Stephane Pilard shortly after the qualifiers. "Taking part in a World Cup is the kind of experience you can't replace."
The will also profit from March's tournament in La Manga, Spain, and Euro 2008 on home soil in July as they bid to leave Chile with a medal.
Laura Agard (defender), Marie-Laure Delie (striker), Amandine Henry (midfielder), Livia Jean (defender), Eugenie Le Sommer (midfielder)
Runners-up at continental level in 2005 and 2006, France succumbed to their bogey team Germany at the semi-final stage in 2007. Les Bleuettes scored eight goals in four matches, including three for Marie-Laure Delie.
The numbers game
7 - the number of goals conceded at Euro 2007 (three against England, four against Germany). France's greatest concern has been their defence and they will need to tighten things up at the back to go far in Chile.
|17||Nora COTON PELAGIE|
|19||Alix FAYE CHELLALI|
|10||Eugenie LE SOMMER|