Wednesday 03 April 2019, 09:30

Bouhaddi and Cascarino: experience and youth sharing the same dream

  • Sarah Bouhaddi and Delphine Cascarino have been team-mates since 2015

  • Les Bleues pair have hearts set on winning France 2019

  • Hosts will begin their campaign against Korea Republic on 7 June

One is a 32-year-old goalkeeper with 137 France caps to her name, the first of them coming in February 2004. The other is a 22-year-old forward who has made nine appearances for Les Bleues since October 2016.

While Sarah Bouhaddi and Delphine Cascarino might not seem at first sight to have a lot in common, aside from being Olympique Lyonnais and France team-mates, the opposite is true, starting with their shared desire to shine at the upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.

Then there is the fact that both are hoping to lift the Trophy in Lyon, where they play their club football. The pair are also preparing for the competition as well as they possibly can, free of pressure, without looking too far ahead but in the belief that Les Bleues can, like their male compatriots, lift the most important cup of all. spoke to them both in a joint interview. What comes into your mind when you hear the words ‘the World Cup’? Delphine Cascarino: I think about the U-17 World Cup we won. It brings back good memories.

Sarah Bouhaddi: France’s men’s team, victory, and the stars on the shirt.

And when you hear the words ‘U-20 World Cup’? Cascarino: Not such nice memories but it was still an interesting competition, even though we didn’t manage to go all the way.

Bouhaddi: 2006. We lost 2-1 in the quarter-finals. It’s a long time ago and my memories of it are pretty hazy. I remember we conceded a goal from a corner because I’ve spoken about it from time to time with Amandine [Henry]. I think it’s important to play all these competitions with the youth teams but it’s not something that changed my future.

Sarah Bouhaddi

  • Details: Goalkeeper; aged 32; 137 caps for France

  • Club: Olympique Lyonnais

  • Club honours: Nine French league titles; six Coupes de France; five UEFA Women’s Champions League titles

  • Internatioal accolades: Semi-finalist at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament London 2012; quarter-finalist at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015; quarter-finalist at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Russia 2006

French Team before friendly France - USA 

Delphine Cascarino

  • Details: Forward; ages 22; nine caps for France

  • Club: Olympique Lyonnais

  • Club honours: Four French league titles; three Coupes de France; three UEFA Women’s Champions League titles

  • International accolades: Winner at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Azerbaijan 2012; runner-up at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Papua New Guinea 2016

Does experience have a big role to play? Bouhaddi: It’s good to play big matches for your club, but the World Cup is totally different. We’re playing in France, in front of our fans, and the pressure’s going to be different, the challenge will be different. It’s good to get experience but that’s not going to help us win this World Cup.

Cascarino: I’ve got experience at youth team level. It’s different and it’s on a completely different level. There’s extra pressure on the senior team and not so much on the youth teams.

Sarah, what advice would you give to Delphine about taking part in a senior World Cup? Bouhaddi: There’s no real difference between a youth and senior World Cup. She just needs to get as much enjoyment out of this World Cup as she did with the youth team and give it her all. You don’t know if you’re going to play in another one after this. We need to really enjoy this opportunity to play these games in France, get caught up in the moment, and give it our best shot.

Delphine, is it reassuring to play alongside someone with Sarah’s experience? Cascarino: It definitely helps. She gives us a whole lot of advice at Lyon every day. It’s pretty amazing to be playing with players you used to watch on TV. It kind of blows you away at first, but then you get used to it.

With just two months to go before the big event, can you feel the pressure and the excitement mounting in France? Cascarino: There’s more and more talk about it in the media, and it’s been a surprise for me to see so many journalists at the press briefings. That’s all down to the World Cup and I hope it all goes well when the tournament kicks off. Tickets have sold really well and I hope a lot of French people come out to support us.

Bouhaddi: Yes, it’s started. It’s the big event in France and a lot’s expected from it and from us too. It’s important that we rise to the challenge. What we need to do now is not put extra pressure on ourselves, keep working away and go into the World Cup full of confidence. People in France love their football and the stadiums were full at both the 1998 World Cup and EURO 2016. Now it’s the turn of the Women’s World Cup. Filling stadiums is a good test of the love French supporters have for us. It’s up to us to do our bit when we play these games because we have to repay them for their support. They’re buying an awful lot of tickets at every stadium and that’s really important.

The semi-finals and the final will be held in Lyon, at your home ground. Does that add to the pressure and make you want to be there even more? Cascarino: There’s not more pressure but more desire, the desire to play at home in that beautiful stadium, especially for me because I was born in Lyon. I’m dreaming of playing the final here.

Bouhaddi: It’s a nice touch for Olympique Lyonnais. Our club president (Jean-Michel Aulas) has done a huge amount for women’s football, and the Lyonnais players in the team have a chance to play a semi-final and final at our club, on our wonderful pitch. We see it every day and we love playing in our stadium in the Champions League. So when we train here and we look around, our thoughts just turn to the World Cup and to what might happen in a few months’ time. It’s something all of us Lyonnais players are thinking about because it might just be amazing.

Delphine, your sister plays in defence at rivals Paris FC. Is it harder to play against her or to win a World Cup? Cascarino: Trying to win a World Cup is really tough! It’s a long-term goal. We’ve been preparing for it for several months, and we’ve got a few months left to improve as a team. We’re on course, though, to have a good competition.

Sarah, is it harder to play in a Champions League final with a broken hand or to win a medal at the World Cup? Bouhaddi: You can’t compare the two. It’s going to feel incredible if we actually go up to collect that medal or the trophy. It’s the pinnacle, the most beautiful thing that can happen to you. What happened in the Champions League final is hard to explain, but there wasn’t a single moment when I asked myself if I should go off or not. So I’m going to say winning a medal at the World Cup.