Over a decade-long international career, Laura Georges has performed several functions for France. Prolific goalscorer has never been among them. Yet a player who scored just three times in her first 100 international appearances has now, much to her own surprise, found the net twice in the space of three Olympic appearances.
On Friday, the 27-year-old emerged as the key figure in Les Bleues’ quarter-final against Sweden, turning a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead by heading home a poacher’s first before laying on the second for fellow centre-half Wendie Renard.
With her other goal, the opener in a 5-0 win over Korea DPR, also having come at Hampden Park, her only regret is that France must head south for their semi-final with Japan. She said: “The pitch is fantastic, the stadium is beautiful and, look, I scored two goals here. I love this place! Trust me, it doesn’t happen too often that I score and get an assist in one match.”
While her unlikely run of success in the opposition area seems at first to be inexplicable, it transpires that Georges has actually had a reason for chasing goals a little more purposefully than usual. “In a lot of our games, I haven’t been getting sent up for the set pieces,” she told FIFA.com.
“I’ve had to stay back and let the other defenders go forward. So when I was told by the coach that I could go forward, I thought, ‘OK, I need to do well and show that I can score in these situations’. I’m glad it worked out that way, and I hope now that he’ll keep sending me up in the semi-final. No-one wants to be stuck in defence all the time.”
A potent presence in the opposition penalty box, Georges was equally impressive in more familiar surroundings, where she and Renard successfully subdued their Lyon team-mate, Lotta Schelin.
“We knew we needed to defend well and I think we did that,” said Georges. “I enjoyed playing against Lotta, and I think we had a point to prove there because Sweden had beaten us in the third-place play-off at the World Cup. Now we can go back to our club and say to her, ‘OK, this time it was our turn’.”
Schelin would certainly have posed no surprises to France’s defence, with every member of their back four – plus goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi – on the books of the reigning European club champions. And the fact that this well-established rearguard has conceded just once in its last 294 minutes of football is, Georges believes, no coincidence.
“It’s really important for communication that we know each other so well,” she said. “When the opposition come at you, it’s great to know instinctively who will be in what position and which player will be doing what job. We know each other inside-out and I think that showed today.”
There has certainly been a massive improvement in Bruno Bini’s side since their opening match collapse, when they were comfortably beaten by USA having led 2-0. Humbling as that experience was, Georges believes that it proved to be just the kind of wake-up call that she and her team-mates needed.
“We learned from that match that we had to play more as a team, be more organised and show greater solidarity,” she said. “It made us realise that we have to be an awful lot stronger and, little by little, I think you’re seeing the real France coming through. All things considered, we’re happy with things so far. Happy, but not satisfied. We definitely want to go further.”