Lyon striker Sandrine Bretigny, a surprise inclusion in the squad selected by France national coach Bruno Bini for the upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™, has been brought in from the cold following a long international absence, and her heightened ambition could well prove to be the European side’s trump card in the tournament.
Having not been involved at this level since 2009, the prolific goal-getter will be hoping to have the chance to fully contribute towards a team whose core of players is drawn largely from the impressive Lyon team that dominated Europe this season.
Bretigny arrives in Germany fresh from securing a fifth consecutive French league-winners medal as well as the UEFA Champions League title, after Les Gones’ recent victory over Turbine Potsdam. The 2-0 result in the French side’s favour was a reversal of the outcome of last year’s final, when the Germans emerged on top after penalty kicks.
While many players would be more than satisfied with a trophy haul of that magnitude, Bretigny, who has only ever played for Lyon since her career began in 2000, has certainly been influenced by the all-conquering French outfit’s seemingly insatiable thirst for success. “Winning the Champions League was our number one objective this season. Achieving that goal brought us immense joy,” the Le Creusot-born international explained with a smile to FIFA.com.
“Lyon are an ambitious side, and we actually had our sights set on a cup-league-Champions league treble. Unfortunately, the Coupe de France got away from us, but it means that our goal for next season will be quite simple: defend the trophies we’ve won and win the ones that we’re missing!”
Bretigny’s ambition is dwarfed by that of Lyon chairman Jean-Michel Aulas, who has challenged the female division of the club to emulate the record of seven consecutive league titles set by their male counterparts between 2001 and 2008.
If the forward continues to show the same prowess in front of goal, that dream could become a reality. With 19 goals in as many league games this season, her scoring exploits have invited comparisons with free-scoring figures from the men’s game such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
She can come on and, thanks to her great skills in the box, completely turn a match around.
But when Bretigny’s record is examined alongside her actual playing time, the statistics propel her into a whole new level. Having started just two games and spent 681 minutes on the pitch in the French championship this season, ‘Bretbut’ can currently boast a staggering ratio of a goal every 35 minutes.
The role of impact substitute is one she has adapted to reasonably well: “That’s the part I was asked to play this year, and I accepted it. The coach and I had numerous discussions about it. I tried to pay back the confidence he showed me in sending me out onto the field, and things turned out pretty well,” she said with a grin.
No substitute for skill
Bini, who was the guiding hand behind France’s qualification for women’s football’s flagship event in Germany, has included no fewer than ten members of Lyon’s triumphant team in his squad. The addition of Bretigny, after a two-year absence from the international arena, was welcomed by Patrick Lair, her coach at club level. “She can come on and, thanks to her great skills in the box, completely turn a match around,” he explained.
The desire to see Lyon’s success rub off on the national team is one that is increasingly shared by the French public back home, who would love to celebrate the FIFA Women’s World Cup title, especially after witnessing the men’s disappointing efforts at South Africa 2010.
Bretigny and her team-mates find themselves ideally placed to leave a lasting impression on fans and to showcase a game that has never looked healthier for women in France. And if, to achieve that objective, Les Bleues have to turn to the bench for some assistance during games, a certain Lyon supersub will be ready to react.