If their virtually flawless qualifying campaign is anything to go by (11 wins and a draw, with 53 goals scored and only two conceded), France will pose a major threat at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™.
Having made great strides in recent years, Les Bleues are thinking big these days, as coach Bruno Bini confirmed to FIFA.com when the Final Draw was made in Frankfurt a few weeks ago: “We have a very strong side and our opponents in the group will not be looking forward to playing us.”
And one of the most compelling reasons for Bini’s confidence is the form and talent of midfielder playmaker Camille Abily. The 26-year-old Lyon star is France’s chief asset, despite her protestations that it is the team that counts. The highly regarded linchpin in a well-oiled machine, Abily received confirmation of her growing status last year, when she figured among the ten nominees for the FIFA Women’s World Player of 2010.
Making it in America
She has also proved herself on both sides of the Atlantic. After winning the French league championship four times in six seasons with Montpellier and then Lyon, during which time she was also voted Player of the Year in France in 2006 and 2007, she then moved to the highly competitive environment of Women’s Professional Soccer.
Making 18 appearances for Los Angeles Sol, she proved her worth by scoring eight goals, briefly returning to her homeland to hit 12 goals in 13 games for Paris Saint-Germain and then jumping back across the pond to sign for Gold Pride. Redeployed to a midfield holding role, she hit the back of the net just once but served up an impressive six assists.
Now back with Lyon, Abily believes her American adventure has made her a better player, as she tells FIFA.com: “I’ve learned from my time there. I came up against the best players in the world and I learned so much alongside the likes of Marta, Shannon Boxx and Aya Miyama. But more than anything else, it also showed me that France has nothing to be ashamed of. My time there has given me confidence in myself and in the team.”
Grounds for optimism
Abily is now contributing to what promises to be a fantastic season for Lyon. Having already clinched the French title thanks to a 1-0 defeat of her old club Montpellier last weekend, Les Gones are now preparing for a UEFA Champions League semi-final against English giants Arsenal. As far as the No10 is concerned, however, the high point of the season is Germany 2011. Nor will France be crossing the border just to make up the numbers. “When you play in a competition, you go there to win it,” she vows.
To do that the girls in blue will first of all need to negotiate their way through the group phase, which, as Abily acknowledges, will be easier said than done: “We’re in a very tough section with Canada, Nigeria and Germany, who are obviously the favourites. We need to get through that first but I’ve got faith in this France team.
“I’ve been lucky enough to play in the States with Christine Sinclair and Candace Chapman and a few others, and I know quite a lot of the Canada players,” she continues. “Obviously, we’ll have to take them very seriously. As for Nigeria I don’t know so much about them, while Germany are a superb team. The fact they’re playing at home makes them even more dangerous.”
For her parting shot, the able Abily underlines the importance of Germany 2011 to French women’s football: “We want to restore France’s reputation at this World Cup in some way or other. We want to show a different side to the French game, just as we’ve been doing lately. A lot of people want to play in the World Cup but never get the chance. We’re going to do everything we can to make sure we don’t waste it. We’re going to have a good tournament.”