Elizabeth Loisel has named her squad for the match with England this Sunday at Ewood Park.
FIFA 2007 Women's World Cup qualifier
England v France
Sunday 26 March 2006
Blackburn Rovers FC, 7.05pm.
France coach Elisabeth Loisel admits that victory in Sunday’s World Cup qualifier at Ewood Park will be more vital for her team than it will be for England as the French play catch-up on Hope Powell’s 100 per cent side.
Group favourites France, at fifth in the world ranked eight places higher than England, went into the qualifiers as hot favourites to take Group 5’s only place at next year’s Women’s World Cup finals in China.
But Les Bleues suffered a shock defeat by Holland in their first game and, though they have subsequently beaten Austria and Hungary, they go into Sunday’s encounter trailing England by three points with both sides having played three matches.
“Losing to the Netherlands was difficult to digest,” said Loisel. “We dominated the game but couldn’t get the goals we needed. So it will certainly be more important for France than for England to win the match at Blackburn.”
While England go into the game on the back of three unbeaten friendlies, Loisel’s line-up have been playing tournaments in China and Portugal – where they won just one of seven matches – in their build-up for Sunday’s crunch meeting.
Victories may have been at a premium but, after seeing two of her most experienced players – captain Corinne Diacre and striker Stéphanie Mugneret-Béghé – retire following the Women’s Euro 2005, Loisel has been blooding youngsters.
“These games have been a good team building exercise for us,” said the French coach. We have lost some good players, but that is not a problem because we have some excellent young players so we will be strong in the long term.
“The youngsters needed to play games in preparation for coming to England and they have done well.”
And with top players such as Marinette Pichon, Sandrine Soubeyrand and Sonia Bompastor still involved, Loisel remains confident.
She watched England collect two draws against Sweden in Cyprus two months ago and, as she looked ahead to Sunday’s match, the French coach said: “I thought England did well against Sweden.
“The Swedes have re-built their team and it needs to find its feet, but England weren’t as strong as they could be and showed real commitment. They have some very good players and it’s going to be a difficult game for us – but it will be for England too!”