By Julien Pretot
PARIS (Reuters) – France are admittedly far from their best at the women’s World Cup, and with a likely quarter-final clash against world champions the United States looming, Les Bleues need to improve if they are to win their maiden title on home soil.
France scraped into the last eight with a 2-1 win against Brazil after extra time on Sunday, their technical shortcomings being compensated by their mental resources as the squad is drawing a lot of attention in the country.
The game attracted a record 11.9 million viewers in France and the Stade Oceane at Le Havre was sold out as captain Amandine Henry’s 107th-minute goal sent the team through, but their lack of sharpness up front needs to be addressed urgently.
“In the first half we did not play. It’s hard to create anything when you cannot make three consecutive passes,” said center back Wendie Renard.
“We need to do better.”
Les Bleues did do better in the second half, with forward Kadidiatou Diani a constant threat and striker Valerie Gauvin looking dangerous.
Gauvin scored from Diani’s free kick in one of the night’s high points, but fellow forward Eugenie Le Sommer failed to shine, just like second-half substitute Delphine Cascarino.
“My players are not at their best level. Some are playing at 80% of their potential, some at 60-70%,” said coach Corinne Diacre, who stayed ice-cool by the touchline when Henry netted the winner.
“Individually, I can’t say that I recognize my team but from a defensive and collective point of view, we did what we had to do.
“But we need to be more patient, and more clinical.”
The U.S., chasing a fourth title, have been impressive in the group phase and are expected to sweep Spain aside later on Monday (1600GMT), possibly gaining a physical advantage after France had to dig deep to advance.
“Everybody has been talking about this game (against the U.S.) since the draw,” said keeper Sarah Bouhaddi, who produced a fine performance against Brazil.
“We’re going to watch the game but won’t be supporting anyone. If we want to be world champions, I know it’s cliche, but we have to be able to beat anyone.”
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Christian Radnedge)