Though France are enjoying their first campaign at a Women’s Olympic Football Tournament, Bleues playmaker Louisa Necib is hoping she and her team-mates can push beyond the quarter-final stage at London 2012. Waiting for them in the last eight on Friday are Sweden, in a match that has the look of a reunion about it in more ways than one.
And as she explained to FIFA.com, the Marseille-born midfielder will not be lacking in motivation when the whistle sounds: “We’re not especially scared of Sweden because you’re bound to meet a big team at this stage of the competition. They snatched a medal from us at the last World Cup, and I hope they don’t stop us this time.”
It was in the match for third place at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™ that the Scandinavians edged out the French 2-1 to claim the last place on the podium. Having reached the semi-finals of a major competition for the first time in the history of the French women’s national team, Bruno Bini’s girls are anxious to repeat and even improve on the feat.
“The World Cup was a wonderful experience. We played some big games in great stadiums and it was brilliant,” commented the linchpin of a France side that have upped their game even more since taking fourth place in Germany. “It’s a rematch pure and simple, but it’s also going to be a tough game,” added the Lyon player guardedly, ahead of their latest joust with the Swedes.
The French kicked off London 2012 with a heavy 4-2 defeat to the USA and eventually clinched their place in the last eight thanks to a narrow 1-0 win over Colombia, a game in which they spurned a host of clear-cut chances in the first half.
With another candidate for Olympic gold now barring their path, Necib is aware of the need for France to be on top of their game: “We weren’t sharp enough in front of goal and, as the coach told us, we can’t afford to miss so many chances in our next few matches.”
The killer instinct
The French star also knows exactly what Les Bleues will be up against in the opening quarter-final of the competition. Leading the line for the Swedes will be her lethal Lyon team-mate Lotta Schelin, the scorer of 38 goals for the French club last season, many of them served up by Necib herself.
“It’s going to be weird to be up against a club-mate, but it’ll be fun too,” said the midfielder, expressing contrasting feelings that will be shared by the rest of France's Lyon contingent, who are still basking in the afterglow of retaining their UEFA Women’s Champions League trophy.
One of the women’s game’s more likeable characters, Schelin is nevertheless one of the most feared strikers around. Discussing that duality with FIFA.com in a recent interview, the Swede said: “When you play sport at the highest level the ‘killer’ in you comes out and you do whatever you can to win, even when you’re up against your club-mates. I’m not a nasty person but I give my all to try and help my team win.”
Schelin showed no compassion for France when she opened the scoring in that match in Sinsheim a year ago, and will certainly not be showing any at Hampden Park on Friday. Nor for that matter will her Lyon colleague Necib.