At just 23, Eugenie Le Sommer already has nearly 60 international caps for France and looks set to reach that milestone at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament London 2012. Les Bleues, on their Olympic debut, will face Korea DPR and Colombia in Group D, but not before taking another shot at toppling women’s football giants USA.
“We’re determined to get our own back,” Le Sommer told FIFA.com. “We have frustrating memories of the (FIFA Women’s World Cup 2011™) semi-final in Germany, and we feel it was a missed opportunity. We played well, but we were less clinical than them. In the end, we didn’t deserve to lose 3-1.”
While the forward describes USA as “one of the best [footballing] nations in the world, if not the best”, she and the rest of Bruno Bini’s Bleues no longer seem fazed by the prospect of playing them. And this despite the fact that their last victory over the Stars and Stripes came in a friendly all the way back in 1992.
Indeed, Le Sommer believes that France, who eventually finished fourth in last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, have learned their lessons after their heartbreaking semi-final defeat at Borussia Park. “It was clearly a lack of experience on our part,” she explained.
“The Americans are always at the big competitions, and they have already won several major titles. We, however, didn’t really know where we were at world level. But having competed in the World Cup a year ago, we now know roughly where we stand, and we mustn’t let ourselves be intimidated by the big teams.”
Les Bleues held their own for most of their last-four encounter with the eventual runners-up, but were undone in the final ten minutes by goals from Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan. Le Sommer hopes that, a year on, France's plucky performance will play on the minds of the Americans when the teams meet again. “I think they may now fear us too, and perhaps that will give us an advantage,” she said.
France, who rounded off their preparations for London 2012 with a 2-0 win over reigning world champions Japan, have further cemented their status by going unbeaten since their defeat to Sweden in the third-place play-off in Germany. The run has seen them breeze to the top of Group 4 in the UEFA Women’s EURO 2013 preliminaries, with six wins out of six, 23 goals scored and just two conceded so far.
Les Bleues also won the 2012 Cyprus Women’s Cup in March to secure a maiden title for the women’s team. “There were some great teams there, such as Canada, England and the Netherlands,” said Le Sommer. “Even though it was a friendly tournament, the fact that we won it gives us confidence. We showed a lot of togetherness and commitment.”
At club level, the French league’s 2010 player of the year enjoyed another trophy-laden season in her second year with Lyon. Les Lyonnaises, who started the campaign as reigning French and European champions, retained their domestic and continental crowns and lifted the Coupe de France to complete a historic treble. On a personal level it was Le Sommer’s most prolific season yet, the forward contributing an impressive 37 goals in Lyon’s treble-winning effort.
“It’s been my best season so far, but I still think I have a great deal of room for improvement,” she said. “I’m making progress every year, and I’m lucky enough to be a first-choice player at the best club in Europe.”
While Le Sommer averages nearly a goal a game for Lyon, her scoring rate is understandably lower with the national team, where coach Bini tends to prefer Montpellier striker Marie-Laure Delie as his attacking spearhead. However, when called upon to fill Delie's boots, she is always ready to step up and add to her international experience. “I can become even sharper in front of goal," she said, "and gain the experience I need to make the right choices more often, and to perform when times are tough as well as when times are good.”
Le Sommer, who has shone for France in all age groups since 2004, knows the importance of patience and humility as her career continues to develop. And she will no doubt look to draw on those qualities as she and Les Bleues begin their quest for Olympic glory.