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Can This Man Fix France’s Women’s Team?

by TodayDigitNews@gmail.com
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The banner hangs just below the central staircase of the elegant hotel occupied by the French women’s national team for the World Cup. Hervé Renard wanted to make sure no one in the team could miss it.

The motivational quotes on it are typical of the types of positive messages that teams rally before major sports tournaments. But for the French national team, and for the travel-savvy Renard, the words take on special meaning after a period that many in the team would rather forget.

It says, “Only team spirit can make dreams come true.”

Renard used the phrase when he first met the French national team earlier this year, just months before the World Cup. It was not long after he was chosen to replace sacked coach Corinne Diacre, but from then on he said that even the federationfractured a bone” Unrepairable.

“We lacked unity,” Leonard said in an interview on the sunny terrace before the team’s base camp last week. This was probably the most understatement in women’s football.

France arrived in Australia this month in form as World Cup favorites.Torn by a bitter feud, in recent months lost player, welcomed their returnafter that lost them again. Changed coaches, changed approach, changed tactics. And this time, the company asked Leonard, a revered 54-year-old with a stellar career in the men’s World Cup, to make it to at least the semi-finals, with no experience coaching women.

He said he started the process by opening up about what he didn’t know.

“Everything was new to me because I didn’t know anything about women’s football or how to manage female players,” he said. “I was lucky because there were a lot of people on our staff who were already involved in women’s football, so I listened.”

He inherited a talented team in turmoil. Its longtime leader, Wendy Renard (not related to Herve), has announced that she will not be competing in the World Cup to preserve her mental health. Two other stars followed suit, saying they would not return unless the team’s leadership changed.

There have been controversies before under Diacre, then-coach, but none as serious and existential. The rebellious mood turned into open rebellion.

With the World Cup looming, the crisis-ridden French football federation took action, announcing Diacre’s dismissal after a brief inquiry. The federation said the rift between her and the team had become so great that she had “reached the point of no return”.

Hervé Renard, who had made a good living as a successful itinerant coach in Saudi Arabia, said he acted impulsively when the news broke. He contacted Jean-Michel Aulas, one of the most influential figures in French football and a member of the French federation’s board of directors. Renard met him ten years ago when he narrowly missed out on coaching the Lyon men’s team. He told Aurus that he wanted to be considered as an opening candidate.

It promised a major turnaround in his career. Renard said he had only once thought of mentoring a woman until he picked up the phone and sent a message to Aurus. He was a fantasy when I was watching France play at the last World Cup. His interest at the time was “probably only for a few seconds,” he said.

But now that his interest in coaching a women’s team for the first time paid off, he faced a problem. To accept the job, he would need the approval of the Saudi football official he was under contract with, and would also have to accept a significant pay cut. The job in Saudi Arabia was at least “20 times” what she would earn as a women’s coach in France, Renard explained with a smile.

“It’s not real at all when you’re in Saudi Arabia,” he said. “So it’s good to go to reality once in a while.”

Months later, looking down at the French crest on the left chest of his tracksuit, Renard said he still couldn’t quite explain why he threw his hat in the ring. Having coached five other national teams, he said the chance to lead his native country was clearly a big draw. But even then, Leonard says, there are some things that can’t be explained. “We still don’t know exactly why we made that decision,” he said.

Renard is optimistic about the rare feat of coaching two World Cups within a year. “The most important thing is not to play two World Cups in six months,” he said. For them it is “doing something”.

Of all the teams Leonard has coached, his current team ranks fifth in the world, and has maintained a high profile despite having never made it past the semi-finals in a major tournament. Leonard said it is now possible.

“We have to believe in ourselves,” he said.

He said he had orders to reach the semi-finals and accepted the target. “You can’t come here when you’re fifth in the world and say ‘No, no, the quarterfinals are enough.’

Renard has only a few months to fix the team’s wreckage, instill the team spirit the flag calls for, and believe his players need to win what he considers the most competitive Women’s World Cup in history.

At his first training camp, Leonard told his team he wasn’t interested in what happened in the past. He didn’t want to sue past games, past feuds, past grievances, everything that made the mood in camp so bad that stars like Wendy Renard said he didn’t want to play for France. But he couldn’t avoid facing one final controversy before the tournament.

The experienced and talented midfielder and national team regular Kayla Hamrawi was attacked by masked men after dinner with his club Paris Saint-Germain in 2021. The uproar reverberated at both the club and the national team, with former teammate Aminata Diallo charged with involvement in the attack, with some outraged by Hamrawi’s initial allegations that he or someone he knew was also involved.

This bizarre episode haunted the national team for over two years. Faced with a resurgence in the French camp, Renard said he had given up on bringing Hamrawy to the World Cup and told her in an interview why she wasn’t selected.

He said he told Hamrawi he was not going to start and would be uneasy sitting on the bench for an experienced player. “I think with this kind of player, it’s very difficult to start or sit on the bench at the starting No. 11,” he said. “Without great team spirit, we cannot move forward in the competition.”

Renard admitted that not all his choices were right. But he said he has been candid with his players about what he knows and what he doesn’t.

“I told the girls, ‘Maybe I’m going to make a mistake.’ If I say something wrong, let me know right away.”

His players say they’re hearing the right things so far. “He keeps pushing us to be our best selves,” said midfielder Grace Gueyoro. recent interview. Wendy Leonard said: “As long as we all share the same vision and are motivated to move in the same direction, we can achieve great things.”

The World Cup will be the most women’s football-focused event in sport history, with teams and players using the platform to seek further recognition and rewards for their efforts. Football’s governing body, FIFA, has more than tripled the prize money from four years ago to $110 million. Critics say the new figure is not enough and should match the $440 million total prize money awarded to men at the 2022 World Cup.

Hervé Renard acknowledged progress in women’s football, especially since the last World Cup. But, perhaps controversially, he said “women still have to put up with it a little bit” when it comes to wages.

As interest continues to grow, so does the potential for revenue, he said. But commercial realities are reflected in the disparity in sports revenues, he said, and he offered an analogy to make his point.

“If you have a restaurant that serves 1,000 meals a night and a restaurant that serves 300, it’s not the same,” he said. “When I went to the cash register at the end of the night, the amounts weren’t the same. Same with football. It’s business.”

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