France have missed only one FIFA U-20 World Cup finals since the competition’s inception in 2002, that absence coming at Thailand 2004. Of their European rivals, only tournament hosts Germany boast a better qualification record.
As of yet Les Bleuettes have failed to do themselves justice on the big stage. Their highest finish to date was the fourth place achieved at Chile 2008, where they lost 5-3 in the match for third place against the Germans. The French appear to have the quality to improve on that record this time around, though their neighbours remain a stumbling block.
Despite losing to who else but Germany in the group phase at the 2009 UEFA European Women’s Under-19 Championship in Belarus, France earned their place at Germany 2010 by finishing top of their group ahead of the Mannschaft on their head-to-head record.
Their hopes of becoming continental champions for the very first time came to an end in the semi-finals, where they lost 5-2 to Sweden after extra time. Agonisingly for Jean-Michel Degrange’s side, who missed a first-half penalty, they came within five minutes of reaching the final in normal time, only for the Swedes to hit a dramatic equaliser.
Qualification for the world finals offered the French some consolation, and the task now facing the girls in blue is to better that fourth-place finish of two years ago.
“If we can maintain this level of performance and add a little more power, we can do even better in the future,” said a positive Degrange after their European Championship ambitions were ended. The coach, who has put together an evenly balanced squad packed with ambitious players, places a very strong emphasis on equality: “There are no first-teamers and substitutes in my squad; only quality players.”
Facts and figures
Laetitia Philippe (goalkeeper), Pauline Crammer (forward), Solene Barbance (forward) and Lea Rubio (midfielder)
There was little to choose between Germany, Switzerland and the French in Group A at Belarus 2009. The three sides all beat the hosts comfortably and finished equal on six points, which meant that the head-to head record would decide which two teams would advance to the semis. Despite beating France 2-1, it was the Germans who missed out following their 3-0 reverse against the Swiss and Les Bleuettes’ 2-0 defeat of the Swiss.
4 - The number of times France have now qualified for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, their best performance coming at Chile 2008, where they reached the last four.
|12||Caroline LA VILLA|
|DEGRANGE Jean Michel|