By Julien Pretot
PARIS (Reuters) – France have yet to reach a Women’s World Cup final but Corinne Diacre’s squad hope to capitalise on home advantage when they kick off next month’s tournament against South Korea in Paris.
Les Bleues are fourth in the world rankings and have been playing some of their best football ahead of the tournament as second favourites behind holders the United States.
“We are in marching order,” Diacre said after France beat 2015 World Cup runners-up Japan 3-1 last month, three months after beating the U.S. by the same scoreline.
They have won nine of their last 10 games, scoring 32 goals and conceding four, and only losing 1-0 to Germany in February.
Drawn in Group A with South Korea, who they will take on in the June 7 opener at the Parc des Princes, Norway and Nigeria, with a possible quarter-final clash against the U.S.
“Our goal is to win the title,” Diacre told reporters.
“It is not a dream because when I dream usually my dreams do not come true. We have been working well up until now but we still have a long way to go.”
France will be able to rely on enthusiastic home support as 770,000 tickets out of the 1.3 million available have been sold — 60% of them in France.
The opening game on June 7 and the Nigeria v France match 10 days later have already been sold out.
“It’s a real asset to know that we will have the backing of the crowds and that the stadiums will be full,” midfielder Maeva Clemaron said.
“The fans will be our 12th player. We are focussed already but they will help us stay focussed as well. We are a great squad.
“We’re impatient to get into the thick of it and we are ready to suffer. It is important to suffer during the preparation to be clear-headed when needed in a game.”
Marie-Antoinette Katoto, the French league’s top scorer, has been left out of the squad, with federation president Noel Le Graet pointing to her lack of consistency.
Les Bleues will play two warm-up games — on May 25 against Thailand in Orleans and on May 31 versus China in Creteil.
Diacre confirmed that her players had better get ready to suffer during the preparation weeks.
“They will suffer. The idea is to hurt yourself, really, because that’s what the World Cup will be about,” she said.
(This story has been refilled to fix spelling of Bleues in paragraphs 2 and 14)
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris)