Eight years ago, the United States ran past France 3-1 in the World Cup semifinals in Mönchengladbach, Germany. After not facing each other in the 2015 tournament, the two countries hit the pitch Friday at Parc des Princes in Paris in the quarterfinals (3 p.m. EST, Fox).
Since that 2011 loss, the French have broken out as a global power in women’s soccer. They won the 2017 SheBelieves Cup, and have only lost once since Sep. 2018. That includes a decisive 3-1 victory over the Americans this past January.
From forwards to midfielders to the backline, France has talent to spare, posing the biggest threat to date to the USWNT’s path to its second straight World Cup title. Here are the five top French players to know.
Wendie Renard, Defender
The most recognizable presence on the pitch for either team may be Renard. She stands 6-foot-2, but with her big hair, that might be more like 6-foot-4. Even as a defender, she leads the team in goals with three in this World Cup.
In 108 caps since 2011, the 28-year-old captain has posted 22 goals. She also is an imposing member of a backline that has ceded just one goal over the last four matches (two if you count Renard’s own goal versus Norway). Over the course of her 13-year career for Lyon, she has scored 102 times.
As Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports writes, her matchup with Alex Morgan could be a determining factor in who advances to the semifinals.
She is a forceful, physical defender who locks down the middle with partner Griedge Mbock Bathy. For an American team that failed to record a single shot on goal in a 2-1 victory over Spain in the Round of 16 (both goals came on penalty kicks), her ability to potentially shut down the 5-foot-7 Alex Morgan and snuff out attacks is a major concern.
Her height will also pose a concern on corner and set kicks.
Amandine Henry, Defensive Midfielder
Henry has tallied two goals in the tournament, so far. The first came late against South Korea, while the latter proved to be the game-winner in extra time over Brazil.
The 5-foot-7 blonde is the vice-captain and features as a defensive midfielder. She won the Silver Ball at the 2015 World Cup, which goes to the second most outstanding player in the tournament.
She played in the NWSL for the Portland Thorns alongside American forward Tobin Heath, who came away impressed.
“She’s fantastic, I consider her one of the best players in the world,” Heath said in a press conference. “She has this competitiveness that is really what I am used to. She is a natural leader and they are lucky to have her as their captain.”
Eugénie Le Sommer, Forward/Midfielder
Le Sommer is one of the other two multiple goal-scorers for the French in the tournament (Valerie Gauvin and she both have two). She has teamed up with Gaëtane Thiney for a combined 130 international goals in their careers, per WREG.
The 30-year-old is markedly shorter than the other two on this list, as she stands 5-foot-3. She opened scoring versus South Korea, and provided the decisive goal over Norway.
According to US Soccer, her and Thiney have picked up the pace since 2018.
They are France’s main scoring threats, having combined for more than 130 international goals.
Of the 15 goals France scored in 2018, Le Sommer’s converted nine. Thiney had five assists to go along with three goals.
The USWNT has allowed just one goal through four matches. They will need to replicate that performance against a dangerous French team, considering that Renard should be able to slow an attack that features a recently-injured Alex Morgan.