- The hosts meet Spain in the semi-finals of France 2018
- A particularly special match for Atletico Madrid midfielder Sana Daoudi
- Another chance to shine for a player who works in the shadows
At only five feet, three inches tall, she is the smallest player in France’s team. However, in the hosts’ quarter-final clash against Korea DPR at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup France 2018, she stood head and shoulders above the rest: covering every blade of grass, winning the ball back, playing it left and right, forward and back. Fittingly enough, the Technical Study Group (TSG) experts awarded Sana Daoudi the aptly-named “Dare to Shine” trophy in recognition of the match’s outstanding performer.
“It’s nice, but I really think that it could have been anyone else among Les Bleuettes. We all shone,” France’s No6 told FIFA.com. “It’s kind of the number six's job to work in the shadows. But I like that defensive midfield role. I like running and pressing, I like one-on-one battles and putting myself about for the team. I’m a warrior.”
It is a frame of mind that bears all the hallmarks of Atletico Madrid. The French midfielder opted to move to the Spanish capital at the start of 2017 and won the domestic championship there last season. “It was a club that suited me and a championship where I could thrive. It’s technical, fast-paced; it just suits me well,” she explained. However, it is now also the country that stands in the way of a place in the final of France 2018.
The semi-final clash between France and Spain therefore holds special significance for this adopted daughter of Madrid. “I know them. Some more than others, like Laia Aleixandri or Carmen Menayo. I see them every day at the club. They’re intelligent girls, very technical. It’s going to be a great match,” she underlined.
"I don’t know where my tenacity comes from… I can’t explain that desire to strike fear into the opponent and steal the ball from her."
Daoudi’s duel with her opposite number Damaris Egurrola, also named player of the match in her quarter-final against Nigeria, will be crucial to the outcome of Monday's semi-final in Vannes. And while Daoudi claims to “fear nobody”, the Spanish midfielder is approaching their personal battle with more caution: “Sana is a player that I know well from having seen her play in the league, but also at the UEFA European U-19 Championship 2017. She was one of France’s best players.”
Indeed, the match is even more meaningful for Daoudi because it is a rematch of the final of last year's European U-19 Championship. On that occasion, Les Bleuettes narrowly missed out on the title, losing to La Rojita 3-2. “Of course, it was a painful defeat. But I don’t want to look at the next match as a chance for revenge,” she added, before concluding: “This is a new group, with many who didn’t go through the trauma of 2017. Plus, it’s a whole different competition. It’s a World Cup semi-final, in France.”
All the more reason to keep on shining.