Laura Georges has gone back to her roots this season. After winning six French league titles and two UEFA Women’s Champions League crowns with Lyon, the central defender, who hails from Le Chesnay near Paris, returned last summer to the club where it all began for her.
“It’s a big change to go back to Paris Saint-Germain from Olympique Lyonnais, but it’s gone well and I’m happy to be back with my family,” the 29-year-old stopper told FIFA.com. “It makes life easier.”
Though life might be simpler for Georges on a personal level, the downside is that PSG currently find themselves second in the league, five points behind her former employers, having drawn one and lost one against their rivals this season.
“Lyon are a cut above in terms of quality and their players have known each other for a long time,” she acknowledged. “We’re on the right track, though, and we’re making progress. When it comes to infrastructure, I’d even go as far to say that PSG are better equipped than l'OL and are even better organised and structured.”
Yet when asked if she thought there was any chance of Lyon dropping points in the run-in and missing out on an eighth consecutive title, Georges offered a frank reply: “Not in the French league, no.”
Elaborating on that answer, she said: “It’s not like Germany. There are very few surprises here and there’s a huge gap between some of the teams, with the big guns always winning their matches. It’s not easy to challenge Lyon because there’s not enough competition and you can’t rely on the other sides to beat them. What’s more, l'OL have this ability to stay focused and be consistent. That’s their biggest strength.”
Europe, then the world
While the title is probably beyond the reach of Farid Benstiti’s side, they do have their sights set on a place in Europe next season, a prize that will most likely come down to their derby match with third-placed Juvisy on 25 May.
We know what it takes to go all the way, and the importance of team spirit and bouncing back.
That is not the only international objective on Georges’ mind, with France’s bid for a place at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™ set to resume against Hungary on 7 May. Despite winning all six of their qualifiers to date and running up a massive goal difference of +39, Les Bleues have yet to make sure of their place in the finals.
“We haven’t got there yet and we need to stay focused right until the end. We can’t take any game lightly,” said the most-capped member of the current squad, with 147 appearances to her name. “Finland are hot on our heels and we’ll need to take them seriously.”
The French have a double header against the Scandinavians in September, and are hoping to earn the opportunity to return to the big stage and improve on the fourth place they secured at Germany 2011 and again at London 2012.
Coached by Bruno Bini, Georges and Co suffered a cruel defeat to Canada in the bronze medal match at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament, a setback from which they were unable to recover at UEFA Women’s EURO 2013, losing out to Denmark in the quarter-finals.
That painful loss prompted the arrival of Philippe Bergeroo in the Bleues dugout, and Georges is delighted with his contribution so far: “He’s carried on with the work that was done before and he’s made us even more tactically aware. He’s brought in his experience as a professional men’s coach and we’re moving forward as a team.”
Explaining why France have fallen short in recent competitions, the central defender said: “It’s a mental problem. It’s all to do with the team’s state of mind.”
Georges believes the French can now kick on and fulfil their potential at the highest level. “I hope we can. We’re starting to gain experience of major international competitions and of getting to the semi-finals.
“That’s important because we know how to handle those occasions now. We know what it takes to go all the way, and the importance of team spirit and bouncing back. I hope we can qualify for the world finals and prove a match for the big guns.”