As the song goes: ‘Everyone seems to know the score, they’ve seen it all before’.

If you’re not a fan of late 90s football songs, you’d be forgiven for thinking that line could be about the French women’s national team. The hope-filled misery Baddiel and Skinner sung about ahead of the 1996 men’s European Championships, as equally on the nose for Les Bleues ahead of this summer’s tournament in England.

There are many ways to win a major tournament but for all their talent, France have yet to find a route beyond the quarter-finals, even going as far as to lose three quarter-final penalty shoot outs across their last six major tournament appearances. It would almost be funny if not for the sheer breadth of talent the team has possessed over that time, much of their Golden Generation having hung up their boots without the international acclaim a World Cup or Euro title would have brought.

But the pipeline has continued to churn out incredibly talented players, from defence to attack, there is always a new star coming through for France. Even in this current squad two of the brightest players in the team, Marie-Antoinette Katoto (23) and Selma Bacha (21) are just making their senior tournament bow and will likely be racking up the caps for the next decade. 

Add in Olympique Lyonnais’ utter dominance in European football; the French giants having won six of the last Women’s Champions League finals, and France never have been beyond a major tournament semi-final (in 2011 and 2012) seems inexplicable. Yet, here we are in another summer tournament with France touted as one of the favourites before a ball was kicked and one match in, they look worthy of their status. 

It’s easy enough to get carried away after seeing the way France moved the ball around against Italy on Sunday in Rotherham. In how, after having the rub of the green and benefiting from some woeful Italian defending, the team kicked up through the years to leave Le Azzurre chasing shadows, powerless to stop the clinical beast that made them look like a pub team, playing hungover.

It’s exactly what we know the French can do when it comes together on the pitch, just as we know they have clinical finishers despite a lack of good finish routinely their undoing at tournaments. 

But we’re jaded football fans and pundits and we truly have seen it all before, like the France team from the 2019 World Cup, when they got off to a roaring start against South Korea before getting worse with each subsequent game and ultimately going out in the, you guessed it, quarters. Maybe this is finally the tournament when it will come together for France, the team with the biggest noise in the background around their coach who had little time for some of the stars of the team, maybe this is the tournament when the football is what will do the talking. 

Maybe, as football comes home for the summer with England hosting, just maybe Les Bleues will strike another resounding blow for the French in the Anglo-French animosity and have the temerity to finally win a tournament. Maybe.

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