Tuesday 11 June 2019, 06:03

Blend of young and old boost Les Bleues

  • France have veterans with experience but few honours

  • They also boast youngsters who have tasted success but lack maturity

  • The perfect mixture? Follow #FRANOR to find out!

By Emma Hingant with France

The France line-up for the opening match of the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™ at the Parc des Princes was notable for its significant level of experience, typified by captain Amandine Henry, with 84 caps, and the impressive spine of Wendie Renard, Elise Bussaglia, and Eugenie Le Sommer, who each boast over 100 international appearances.

Corinne Diacre was therefore able to call on a starting XI that was particularly battle-hardened, and that acumen is obviously beneficial for the squad as a whole. “I try to set an example in the way I apply myself on the pitch,” Bussaglia, the most capped player (189) in the current France squad, told FIFA.com.

But alongside these stalwarts, a crop of exciting young players has also emerged, ready to be shown the way by the seasoned campaigners who have already been over this road before. ”We talk about playing at previous World Cups, the little snags we hit along the way, and the reasons we lost,” added Gaetane Thiney (157 caps), who is taking part in her third Women’s World Cup.

"We take a look back to avoid making the same mistakes again. But at the same time, the young players also have something to say, even though they’re discovering the competition for the same time. They look at things with a fresh eye – they’re so spontaneous, they want to know everything and they’re a little less anxious.”

Experience of a different kind

It is important to remember that the starlets in France’s squad have already amassed a substantial amount of international experience.

In the last seven years, Les Tricolores have enjoyed success at the 2012 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, with a squad featuring Griedge Mbock Bathy, Aissatou Tounkara, Kadidiatou Diani, Delphine Cascarino and Grace Geyoro, at the 2013 UEFA European Women’s U-19 Championship, with Solene Durand, Tounkara, Diani and Mbock Bathy, and at the 2016 U-19 EURO, with Cascarino and Geyoro.

In addition, a team including Cascarino, Geyoro, Sakina Karchaoui and Valerie Gauvin lost in the final of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup 2016.

“Some of us have a few winners’ medals, and I think that can be helpful for this team if we want to go on and – dare I say it – win the tournament,” said Cascarino, who, at 22 years of age and with 14 caps to her name, is the second youngest Bleue after Emelyne Laurent. “I’m still a bit young to give people advice, but there’s no doubt that a winning record is a form of experience.”

Beneficial blend

Geyoro, who is the same age, concurred: “I do have experience of big tournaments so inevitably they listen to me if I’m ever giving out pointers. But I also take a lot of advice on board myself because I’m one of the youngest and I’ve still got a lot to learn. We try to talk a lot as a group. Whether it’s me or them, we all try to add something to the discussion.”

Jessica Houara-d'Hommeaux, the ex-France defender (64 caps) who now does television work with Canal Plus, has a perfect understanding of this delicate balance. “I know that all the veterans are good at doling out advice,” she said. “We’re also lucky to have a lot of young players who listen, who are always looking for guidance about little things, who constantly want to learn, and who have a lot of desire.”

“It’s a nice mix – very nice, in fact,” concluded Thiney, clearly hopeful that this combination of wisdom and youth will soon result in the capture of the most illustrious trophy of them all.