France coach Herve Renard has fond memories of managing Morocco’s men’s soccer team, but when his Les Bleues meet the North African nation in the round of 16 at the Women’s World Cup the only thing on his mind will be winning.
“In terms of Morocco, we had prepared for this to happen,” Renard told reporters on Monday, on the eve of their game at Hindmarsh Stadium.
“I have amazing memories from when I was in Morocco. I have amazing friends. But now we need to focus on football. Even when we have a friendly match, you still need to win the game so we are here to qualify (for the quarter-finals).”
The winner of Tuesday’s knockout game will face either Australia or Denmark in the quarterfinals on Saturday in Brisbane.
Renard, a longtime French player who famously once worked as a cleaner to fund his budding managerial career, also coached at the men’s tournament in Qatar in 2022. He was only hired by France in late March after Corinne Diacre was sacked in the wake of a player revolt.
France was fourth in 2011 and was eliminated in the quarterfinals in 2015 and 2019, but is among the favourites this year after going undefeated to top Group F, capped with a dramatic 6-3 win over a feisty Panama side.
The fifth-ranked squad has watched as top 10 teams United States, Germany, Brazil and Canada have all been unceremoniously dumped from an expanded 32-nation World Cup that is enjoying more parity than ever.
Aston Villa midfielder Kenza Dali said France feels confident amid the turmoil.
“We have a good group dynamic, so this is very important when we are competing,” the 32-year-old said.
“It’s important to play each game as if it was your last game. But make sure that this is not your last game. So yes, different things are happening during this World Cup, but we need to focus on ourselves and not think that the way things have happened for us have been easier than it was for others.”
Renard has question marks in his squad in captain Wendie Renard, who was rested against Panama with a minor calf injury, and Maelle Lakrar, who suffered an injury when she slipped Renard said.
“We have to let them decide how they feel,” said the coach. “We had a good result facing Panama and some had more time to be in the game and to be on the field, others had time to rest, but overall everyone is ready for this important game.”
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