Wendie Renard has been one of the easier players to spot on the pitch for this year’s Women’s World Cup. The 6-foot-2 defender (without her big hair) stands tall on the French backline, which has allowed just two goals during the first four games of the tournament.
She will be a major factor in Friday’s quarterfinals match versus the United States (3 p.m. EST, Fox). The Americans only have one player that comes close to Renard’s height, which is 6-foot Sam Mewis in the midfield.
For Renard, she is able to use her size to impose her will on smaller forwards, as well as present a threat on corner and set kicks. Mewis was even asked about this in the media availabilities leading up to Friday.
“She’s great in the air,” Mewis said to Yahoo Sports. “And I think our setup on set pieces will remain the same and you just have to make sure we are doing our job and watching out for her because she is definitely dangerous.”
Overall, she is the leading scorer this tournament for France. She piled on two goals in a 4-0 rout over South Korea, as well as the decisive goal in a 1-0 decision versus Nigeria.
However, her defense is what American coach Jill Ellis is likely most worried about. Her star forward Alex Morgan is expected to play, but has not been 100 percent since her injury versus Sweden.
Morgan herself talked about adjusting to the physical play against Spain, who pushed the Americans to the brink in 2-1 decision earlier this week.
“I don’t recall it being this physical, this aggressive, this reckless,” Morgan said to Yahoo Sports. “I wasn’t expecting that. It was a very challenging game and it showed a little bit of what we might see in France, some things at least.”
Renard Comes From a Tough Background
Renard wrote a piece in the Player’s Tribune about how she had to prove her worth growing up in Martinique competing against boys. She described herself as a “tomboy.”
I was a bit football obsessed. The boys and I would take off from school at the end of the day and we’d head to the beach and swim, and then play football. But even then I knew: I needed to play twice as hard, twice as smart, to get respect.
We’d set up a couple of shoes for goals and if we didn’t have a ball, we’d kick around a plastic bottle. And if we weren’t at the beach, we’d play in the carpark of our housing project.
She also mentions that the women in her family were all about the sport.
“My aunt was a referee on the island,” she writes. “My mum played a little and watched matches all the time. So when my sisters and I got into fights about the TV on the weekends, I always had the judge on my side.”
This competitive spirit, as well as physical stature, is what the Americans will have to deal with in the quarterfinals. With Renard on defense and the country of France behind her, the USWNT will have to claw their way past a tough opponent with a cleaner effort than it showed versus Spain.