Thomis, France’s quick-witted winger

“I actually wanted to sign up for athletics club, but there was a football match taking place in front of the sports centre I was at,” Elodie Thomis told of her path into the game. “I watched them play and thought that I’d like to do that too.” It was a relatively quick, spontaneous decision for the then 15-year-old to make, but now, 13 years later, there is no doubt it was the right choice.

The 5’5 Frenchwoman has been a fixture in her country’s national team for the last ten years and is currently with Les Bleues at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™. It is her second appearance at the tournament, having previously taken part at the finals in Germany four years ago. And just like her decision-making ability, she is astonishingly fast out on the pitch too.

Thomis freely admits that pace is not only her signature characteristic, but also her greatest strength: “My speed is what allows me to play football.” It is therefore hardly surprising that of one her nicknames is ‘Speedy’, after Speedy Gonzales. Indeed, the compatriots of the fastest mouse in Mexico recently discovered first hand that the moniker is entirely fitting.

Against Mexico, the France No12 was a tireless presence in tormenting her opponents on the right wing, and almost every attack was launched down her side of the pitch. “The coach told us we’d have a lot of space on my wing so we wanted to exploit that,” she said of her team’s tactics. “I really like it when I have a lot of room to make use of my pace.”

Second-fastest goal in history That much was evident in France’s first goal against Mexico. After receiving possession on the right, Thomis nudged the ball past a defender and sprinted down the wing to the by-line before crossing into the middle. Mexico’s goalkeeper and defence were too hesitant, allowing Marie Laure Delie to head France 1-0 up with just 34 seconds on the clock. It was the second-fastest goal in tournament history, beaten only by Sweden’s Lena Videkull, who found the target after 30 seconds against Japan in 1991.

GOAL! @MarieLaureDelie scores in 34 seconds - the second-fastest goal in #FIFAWWC history #FIFAWWC #MEXFRA

— FIFA Women'sWorldCup (@FIFAWWC) June 17, 2015

It is no wonder France went close to breaking that record given the nimble-footed Thomis’ involvement. The build-up to the goal also highlighted how much she has improved her all-round game. Thomis has always been able to sprint, but in her early career she was frequently criticised for her ball control.

“When I arrived at the youth academy in Clairefontaine I had to work a lot in order to get to the same level as the others,” she said. “Nowadays in Lyon I train with very good players every day and that helps me improve too. I’ve worked really hard to get better and it’s paid off.”

Her spirited display in France’s final Group F game played a major role in helping the side finish top of the standings, setting up a Round of 16 tie with Korea Republic, who likewise boast fleet-footed players. Thomis has respect for her forthcoming opponents, but is by no means fearful: “We’ll definitely have to give 100 per cent, but in order to win the World Cup we have to be able to beat everyone.”

Quick-witted decision-making will be crucial to that aim in upcoming matches. Fortunately for France, Thomis has long since proven her aptitude in that regard.