By reaching the semi-finals of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™ and the 2012 Women’s Olympic Football Tournament, the stock of France’s women’s XI rose substantially. They subsequently demonstrated that these successes were no flash in the pan, lifting the 2014 Cyprus Cup and securing a friendly victory over the mighty Germany away from home.
These performances have rightly seen Les Bleues installed as one of the potential winners of Canada 2015, but they will now have to prove that they deserve that elevated status against three highly ambitious nations, including an England side with which they are already very familiar. Mexico and Colombia, meanwhile, have both made significant progress in recent years and appear on the verge of a major breakthrough. Could it occur at Canada 2015?
The big game
France - England, 9 June 2015, Moncton Stadium, Moncton, 14:00 local time
England’s last World Cup outing ended in a suspenseful defeat on penalties by France in the quarter-finals of Germany 2011. The French have since defeated the English at the 2013 UEFA Women’s Championship and in the final of the aforementioned Cyprus Cup, so Mark Sampson’s players are unlikely to be lacking in motivation.
The 32-year-old British coach is confident of rejuvenating the fortunes of the Three Lionesses, building a team around a core of seasoned stars such as Alex Scott, Fara Williams and Kelly Smith. His opposite number, Philippe Bergeroo, who is almost double his age, will rely on a generation of players that has truly begun to blossom, while also handing an opportunity to young talents like Claire Lavogez and Griedge Mbock Bathy.
What else to expect
It is unlikely that Mexico would be where they are today were it not for the efforts of Leonardo Cuellar, the man who has transformed El Tri into a team capable of making life difficult for anyone, as Colombia may discover on 9 June. Felipe Taborda’s charges, however, have enjoyed a similar rise to prominence in South America, aided by the coach’s previous work with the nation’s U-17 and U-20 sides.
The European representatives in Group F should be aware that they will not have it all their own way, therefore, given the Latin American teams’ ability to marry innate skill with tactical nous and increased physical strength.
Irrespective of the results, fans in Moncton can look forward to a veritable feast of football, as Charlyn Corral (Mexico), Yoreli Rincon (Colombia), Toni Duggan (England) and Louisa Necib (France) belong to that elite club of players who can turn a match around in the blink of an eye.