On Saturday, the United States traveled to Le Havre, France to face the host nation of the 2019 Women’s World Cup in a friendly. The U.S. went through 2018 without losing a single match, but they started the new year with a 3-1 defeat against France.
Many have looked at this game from the American perspective. But what does this victory mean for the French national team?
France has been one of the top ranked teams in the world for a long time, but they have failed to win a major tournament. They are considered strong contenders for the 2019 World Cup title, due to their skill level and the added bonus of being a host nation. But the same was true for their last three major tournaments, and each time they fell out in the quarterfinals. That’s a trend they’ll be hoping to break this year.
The French started Saturday’s game with a goal in the ninth minute scored by Kadidiatou Diani. They were able to stop the U.S. from controlling the game and executing their preferred style of play. But Christen Press got some chances for the United States, and France’s lead felt shaky until the 56th minute. It started with a beautiful pass from Marion Torrent that cut through the U.S. defense. Diani got on the other end of the ball and took a shot from a difficult angle that went over Alyssa Naeher and into the net. When Marie Katoto bagged another goal for France in the 78th minute, the French knew they were starting their year off with a win.
There were many positives for the French to take away from this match. First, they scored three goals on fourteen total shots. Finishing has always been an issue for the French national team, but Diani and Katoto stepped up to make sure France did enough to get the win. Additionally, the crowd in Le Havre was sold out and definitely favored the French side. It was a positive glimpse of what to expect this summer.
Before the game, team captain Amandine Henry spoke with the media. “We know that we can play the big teams,” she said. “We know that we have to be mentally ready, and we are. We also know that we have to play from the first to the 90th minute. We are definitely more mature now.”
My own biggest takeaway from the match is the Henry is right. Whether its the finishing, the dominance, or the boost from the home crowd, France proved on Saturday that they are amongst the best in the world. They can face the big teams and no one should count them out.
In the World Cup host nation, they are hoping that their win over the United States is just the start to a legendary 2019 campaign.