FIFA Women’s World Cup: France on the Move

The French men’s squad for the FIFA World Cup is struggling with injuries, but the women’s team has continued moving up, earning a top five spot in the FIFA Rankings by winning the Cyprus Cup in March. France currently sits on top of group seven in European qualifying for next summer’s women’s cup.

France is undefeated so far in qualifying for the 2015 cup, which will take place in Canada. They have seven wins over seven games with 21 points, and are two games ahead of the second place contender in the group, Finland. France has yet to play Finland in official qualifying, though, and the Finns are undefeated as well with five wins in five games.

Les Bleues earned their most recent three points with a 4-0 victory over Hungary early in May. Prior to that, France routed Austria with two 3-1 victories and shut out Kazakhstan in April and last September with seven and four goals, respectively. The French women decimated Bulgaria in both of their match-ups last November, shutting them out as well to the tune of 14 and 10 goals. France’s goal differential for qualifying is 43.

FIFA has France ranked fourth overall for women’s international soccer, behind only the United States, Germany, and Japan. If the French team qualifies for 2015, which seems likely at this point, it will be their third appearance on the world stage. The French women took fourth place in the 2011 World Cup after winning the number two spot in group play behind Germany, eventually losing to the United States in the semifinals and then to Sweden in the match for third place.

France played its first ever international game in 1920 against English side Dick, Kerr’s ladies, losing 2-0 in front of a crowd of around 20,000 spectators. The next year, women’s football was banned from FA and FIFA sanctioned events and pitches in France, England, and Germany for more than 50 years. Since FIFA reinstated women’s football, France has been on the move toward winning first place and lifting the World Cup trophy.

The French team is a combination of solid experience and youthful ingenuity, with veteran starters like Laura Georges and Camille Abily and fresh newcomers such as 21-year-old Amel Majri. Majri, who plays club for Lyon, has already netted one goal in a single appearance for the national team. Strikers Gaëtane Thiney and Marie-Laure Delie have over 100 combined goals in 180 appearances.

Qualifying will continue for France on August 20 with a second match against Hungary, a team that has never beaten France in international play. The French side will meet Finland on September 13 to decide the top spot in group seven. France is 7-1-2 all-time against the Finns, with a 14-point goal differential in favor of Les Bleues.

France will get an opportunity to warm up prior to these qualifying matches with friendlies against number-six ranked Brazil and number-one ranked United States. The team will play Brazil on June 11 before tackling a double-header against the U.S. on June 14 and June 19. France has beaten the U.S. twice in 16 meetings.

A win against Hungary or Finland could secure a spot in the 2015 Women’s World Cup for France, who have been steadily moving up through the rankings and are close to automatic qualification. France’s balanced lineup and superior goal-scoring ability provide a strong formula for dominating in qualifying and potentially in the World Cup Finals.

Commentary by Christina Jones