England Lionesses face their biggest test yet against France Feminine in the quarter finals of the 2017 UEFA Women’s European Championships.
With a place in the final four against Netherlands at stake, both teams will be keen to win this meeting. The winner will go into their semi final confident of beating the hosts, who boast a strong squad including Shanice van de Sanden.
England boss, Mark Sampson is expected to name the same starting eleven that beat Spain for this clash. This comes after several of those players were rested against Portugal.
France will be without their captain, Wendy Renard due to suspension. Her absence will provide the Lionesses’ attack with hope given that she has been the French rock in their defence.
Despite Renard’s ban, there are several key players for the Les Bleus likely to start including; Eugenie Le Sommer, Amandine Henry and Camille Abily.
Any glimmer of hope?
With both teams being amongst the favourites, nobody expected these sides to be meeting this early.
History however suggests that this game will be one sided given that England Women haven’t beaten their French counterparts since 1974. Just how much does this hamper any glimmer of hope for England and their fans?
These teams have met in the last three major women football tournaments with France emerging victorious in each meeting (5 goals 1 conceded and a 4-3 win on penalties in the 2011 FIFA Women World Cup).
As Sampson said in his pre match press conference, history doesn’t matter come kick off. I think you would be hard pressed to find anyone that disagrees because this is a incredibly stronger and wiser England squad than of years gone by.
Another thing that helps England here is that most of the Manchester City Women players played some of France’s squad in April, when they met Lyon Femines in the UEFA Champions League semi finals.
Critical management experience
France Femines manager, Oliver Echouafni is making his first proper major tournament debut here, having only taken over last October. Given his inexperience and a scrappy group stage performance, you have to really wonder if this will cost the Les Bleus here.
Sampson could also be argued as not having enough experience. He however has managed in the women’s game since 2010 with Bristol City W.F.C
Personally, this issue of whether managerial experience will play a part in the result is debatable in groups if you ask me because we all measure experience in different ways.
Realistically, France have to be favourites given the history in this fixture. I however reckon that if England are ever going to beat their bogey team, this is the time to achieve it.
Pressure doesn’t come into this because if England can reach the semi finals of a World Cup, there are no excuses for underperforming at this stage of the Women’s European Championships.
It will be tight but the Lionesses had the advantageous luxury of resting players for their final group game. On that note, I expect fitness to get England over the line and into a semi final against the Dutch.
Prediction: England Lionesses 2-1 France Feminines
Result: England Lionesses 1-0 France Feminines