Over the years France have found Germany to be formidable opponents on the field of play. While Les Bleus suffered one of their most painful defeats to the Germans in the semi-finals of the 1982 FIFA World Cup Spain™, the country’s women have fared little better, succumbing to seven defeats in nine meetings between the two, proof that their eastern neighbours are something of a bogey side.
Yet, whatever their sporting differences, there is an undeniably strong bond of friendship between the two nations, one that extends beyond the football pitch. That bond was strengthened further by the arrival in Paris of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™ Welcome Tour, which is being staged by FIFA and the tournament’s Local Organising Committee. FIFA.com was in the French capital to find out more about the latest leg of the 15-stop global tour.
A total of 150 guests were present as the competition trophy made an appearance at the Radisson Blu Ambassador Hotel and then the city’s German Embassy, among them a number of celebrities from women’s football, including current France stars Sandrine Soubeyrand and Camille Abily, and former legends Sandrine Roux and Corine Diacre.
Presiding over events were LOC President Steffi Jones and Tatjana Haenni, FIFA Head of Women’s Football Competitions, as gifts, smiles and pleasantries were exchanged following a series of speeches on the women’s game in general and Germany 2011 in particular.
Underlining the friendship between the two countries, the respective presidents of the French and German football associations, Fernand Duchaussoy and Wolfgang Niersbach, expressed their belief that it will be a tournament to remember, a view also echoed by France coach Bruno Bini.
A smiling Jones later had this to say to FIFA.com: “There is a special link that binds France and Germany together. We’ve had the opportunity to meet up on numerous occasions already, and we hope France has been able to see today that we can stage a great World Cup. We will certainly be doing everything in our power to make that goal a reality.”
Also speaking exclusively to FIFA.com was Marinette Pichon, France’s all-time record goalscorer. “Germany have always set the standard as a team, winning title after title and nurturing some great players,” she said.
Pichon and Jones crossed swords many times during their international careers, and the French striking legend had some warm words for the LOC President: “She is a great champion. It’s fantastic to see people like her still so heavily involved in the women’s game.”
Jones returned the compliment with some effusive praise of her own: “Marinette was quick, very technical and set up more than her fair share of goals with her passing. She was very hard to defend against. We were never team-mates, but that didn’t stop us from striking up a great friendship and we always swapped shirts at the end of every game.”
As fate would have it, the Germans and the French will be locking horns once more at Germany 2011, in a Group A that also features Nigeria and Canada. While some have dubbed it the “group of death”, Duchaussoy is looking upon it as the “group of life”, such is the entertainment value he believes it will generate.
The meeting between the two sides in Monchengladbach on 5 July certainly promises to be a spectacular one. And whoever comes out on top, it will provide both countries with another opportunity to show that rivalry and friendship can indeed go hand in hand.