Wednesday 05 June 2019, 09:05

Bouhaddi: We'll give everything to make French people smile

  • Gaetane Thiney & Sarah Bouhaddi anticipate an ‘extraordinary’ France 2019

  • The France players evaluate whether playing at home helps or hinders

  • Thiney reveals France’s Russia 2018 triumph is inspiring Les Bleues

By Emma Hingant with France

"A World Cup at home is a dream. Just to be part of a World Cup is already a dream, but now we have the chance to play in one on home soil, so it's going to be extraordinary. I think it could even be magical."

Those are the thoughts of Sarah Bouhaddi, but the France goalkeeper could just as well be speaking for an entire nation ahead of the FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019™.

"It's going to be rich in emotions and, above all, we'll get to share it with the French people, which will be extraordinary," added team-mate Gaetane Thiney, who is set for her third World Cup. "Even in our wildest dreams, we didn't imagine that."

Home pressure

The France players are ready to tackle the rest of the world in front of their own fans, and the locals will be right behind them. But is it really an advantage to host the competition, even with such unconditional support? While Uruguay, Italy, England, Germany, Argentina and France have all won the men's version at home, the Women's World Cup has proved less of a boon for the hosts.

Since 1991, only one team has lifted the trophy on home turf, when USA emerged victorious in 1999. Furthermore, aside from that success and USA's run in 2003, the hosts have always exited in the quarter-finals.

Despite that record, Bouhaddi is confident that Les Bleues will defy the curse of the home side. "We're going to have 30 or 40,000 people behind us who'll be pushing us to win games," explained the Lyon custodian, capped 140 times by her country. "There will be difficult moments from time to time, but I think the fans will help us overcome them. It's a real bonus for us compared to the other nations."

Sure enough, if the France players put any stock in history, they are far more likely to note the role of their 12th man – or woman, in this case. The men's side surged to glory as hosts of both UEFA EURO 1984 and the 1998 FIFA World Cup™, before reaching the final of EURO 2016 at home.

Recalling those feats, the women's team are hopeful that they can add a title of their own as World Cup hosts this summer.

"We'll need to be strong in our heads as well as our legs, but above all we want to bring joy to the whole country and the people we love," said Thiney. At 33, the Paris FC midfielder has vivid memories of France's first World Cup triumph in 1998, but it is their second victory in Russia last year that will be fresher in the mind – particularly for her younger team-mates.

"Les Bleus winning the title in 2018 is a motivation for us, because we want to experience the same things as them," Thiney said, before making an offer to the French public: "Keep up your support and we'll try to repay it a hundred times over with some wonderful emotions."

Bouhaddi, meanwhile, knows all about the thrill of victory at club level, but she has yet to reach the same highs with France and, at 32, hopes the moment has finally come: "We're playing at home, we're in the running and we're hungry to win this World Cup."

And with the backing of the fans a potentially vital ingredient, she too has a message for France's supporters: "We'll try not to let you down and we'll give everything we have to make you smile."