de Blauwe, who conquers all the West

Kadidiatou Diani jubilates: she has just opened the score against the United States.
Kadidiatou Diani jubilates: she has just opened the score against the United States. David Vincent / AP

How do you recognize the approach of a big tournament? Several indications have given the players of the French team the feeling that the countdown started before the opening of the World Championship 2019 (organized from 7 to 7 July). This week, when they arrived at the head office of Clairefontaine (Yvelines), they were greeted by an unusual number of television cameras. "There are more journalists, we feel that it is coming in. It is a crucial year for women's football"says Wendie Renard, emblematic defender of Les Bleues.

Saturday, January 19, at the Océane Stadium in Le Havre, they were the first to honor the world champions, the Americans, to face and crush (3-1). An opponent who is not unimportant, more in the sub-prefecture Seine-Maritime, whose local club is chaired by a businessman Made in the USA. named after Vincent Volpe.

"The American team has a great history [3 titres mondiaux et 4 Jeux olympiques]but we do not blush for her. We write ours. Tomorrow we are going to the World Cup mode »had warned the previous day, Captain Amandine Henry.

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More empowered, more in the legs and technically higher, her teammates heard the message: from 9e minute, the déoulou of Delphine Cascarino, followed by a miracle of center in withdrawal allowed Kadidiatou Diani to open the score. A nice collaboration between a player from Lyon and a player from PSG, the two strongholds of French women's football.

Cascarino – no relationship with Tony, the former Irish scorer of Olympique de Marseille – caused a nightmare on the American left, Emily Fox. On the side of the team of the United States, a few legs – it must be said that their championship was resumed in April – only the attacker could distinguish Christen Press in the first period. The French chances multiplied, as Diani twice (40e and 41e) or only Eugenie Le Sommer, who missed the frame of the breath at the beginning of the second period (50.)e).

Goals scored by PSG players

In the end it is still Kadidiatou Diani, who is in the middle position, while she usually plays the match, which doubles the bet. His shooting center ended in the opposite corner of goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher (57e, 2-0). The Blues suffocated in the bud the appearance of American uprising and killed all the tension thanks to the replacement Marie-Antoinette Katoto (78).e, 3-0), another Parisian player (top scorer in D1 with 17 goals). The reduction in Mallory Pugh's score was only anecdotal (91e, 3-1).

Just less than six months before the opening match of the next World Cup against South Korea, this prestigious match against the best nation of women's football, was sold out, it is to say 22,870 spectators according to a statement from the French football federation. The visual impression was earlier in that sense, even if a few dozen chairs remained empty. A mixed audience, well represented women and children, braved a biting cold and created a nice atmosphere. A success when we know that the HAC professional team evolves for 6 700 fans in Ligue 2 on average.

Are media coverage and wealth proof of a craze? "It is always a shame to have waited in 2019 to see so many journalists [cent accrédités]. Next time, I hope we will have 200, maliciously, coach Corinne Deacon noted before the game22 000 spectators is good, but we all have to be supporters. These are the 12e woman. I'm not worried, the craze will be there for the World Cup. The organizing committee chose human-sized stadiums. "

A. H.

Two hours before the kickoff, the audience, still small, benefited from the entertainment that had been set up for the occasion. A young girl, dressed in the tracksuit of her club, managed to hit the center of the target in a precision workshop, where an adult had just sent the ball into the air. "We left for the French team in a short time, she is champion of the Vendée", the mother triumphed, while her talented offspring, ashamed, became very small.

Strange blue dish, placed along the railway line, opposite the old but mythical stadium Deschaseaux, de Havre, inaugurated in 2012, will host seven posters of the World. What justifies the presence in the city of a guest of Mark, the mascot of the contest, a bird named Ettie. In the middle of a promotional tour, the latter, the daughter of Footix – entered the famous mascot of the 1998 World Cup – BMX on a municipal beach.

Elsewhere in the city, the presence of two of the best teams in the world (number 1 and number 3 in the FIFA ranking) was quiet. Some advertising posters announcing the meeting and buses decorated with two small flags, one French and the other American. On the Docks Vauban, rehabilitated industrial buildings, a traveling exhibition on the history of the Blue was inaugurated before the match in the presence of two former internationals: Brigitte Henriques, FFF Deputy Vice President and Vice-President of the Organizing Committee of the Mondial and Laura Georges, general secretary of the FFF.

The revenge in the neighborhoods of the World Cup?

On the ground, the opposition was up to expectations. "These are two very good teams, competitive, it's very important for us to play France for the World Cup and the audience will be happy to see so many world-class players», predicted Jill Ellis, the Team USA coach.

The Blues were also not frugal with compliments to their opponents from across the Atlantic. "They have a huge tank and when a new player arrives, we do not see the difference …"explained admiration for Wendie Renard. According to teammate Gaëtane Thiney, that is the United States "A steamroller", "The iron spirit" and "The positive attitude".

One of the American stars, Carli Lloyd, the 36-year-old veteran who came to 105 goals, which arrived twenty minutes before time, enjoyed the trip on the day before the meeting: "Play here, watching the host country, see this stadium where we will play [Suède – Etats-Unis, le 20 juin]it is a great way to start the year. It gives a taste of what the World will be. " She certainly did not like the result, but gets the chance to take revenge.

The American players are disappointed by the defeat of their team.
The American players are disappointed by the defeat of their team. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP

Indeed, the two nations, when they logically end up as the first of their respective group, should meet in the quarterfinals, June 28, in the Parc des Princes. A perspective that remains worrying for the French, whose history is still largely unfavorable compared to the United States, despite the good running series (1 draw and 2 wins).

In 25 games, the Americans won 17 times for only 5 triumphs. In the official competition, the victory ratio is even 100%: three successes achieved during the semi-finals of the 2011 World Cup (3-1), the 2012 Olympic Games (4-2) and the first round of the 2016 Olympic Games (1 -0).

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These statistics do not prevent Corinne Deacon from finding sleep. The former defender with more than 120 selections will do everything to prevent pitfalls: "It has been a year and a half without an official competition (ex officio qualification). It is a bit long. Do not make the mistake of playing the league earlier. Athletes know well. You have to have patience … "

Undoubtedly, the demanding coach will not let her protégés fall asleep on their laurels. She did not have to wait long to do it. "I am happy because there was the road, the girls work really well, we demand strictness, but they realize again this evening that it pays, she said before she threw, now we will remain humble, we have made a good preparation game against the Americans, but we have not won anything yet. " The blue are prevented.

Anthony Hernandez (special correspondent in Le Havre)

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