League of Nations: the “super challenge” of Les Bleues against the Spanish world champions

The affair could have disturbed the Spanish footballers

League of Nations: the “super challenge” of Les Bleues against the Spanish world champions

The affair could have disturbed the Spanish footballers. She united them more than ever. On August 20, 2023, in Sydney (Australia), a few minutes after their victory in the World Cup final, striker Jenni Hermoso was forcibly kissed by Luis Rubiales, then president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF). The start of long weeks of controversy going beyond the strict sporting framework. A long standoff, too, between the RFEF and its players, who had threatened to no longer wear the selection jersey. Six months later, however, La Roja already has the opportunity to add a new international title to its record. Wednesday February 28, at 7 p.m., she faces the French team, in Seville, in the final of the League of Nations.

For the Blues, on the other hand, it is a great first. Never before had they managed to reach this stage of a major competition, regularly reaching the quarter-finals – as was the case during the last World Cup, eliminated by the Australian hosts (0-0, 6-7 on penalties). Their three semi-finals – during the 2011 World Cup, the 2012 Olympic Games and Euro 2022 – all ended in defeat.

Kadidiatou Diani and Sakina Karchaoui, scorers five days earlier against Germany (2-1), came to put an end to this curse. Clearly technically superior to their evening rivals in the first period, the French resisted, despite the reduction in Giulia Gwinn's mark, to obtain their ticket for the final.

Facing Spain, the first nation in the FIFA rankings, the task promises to be more difficult. “It’s a great challenge that must be taken up with enormous determination. We have to have confidence in ourselves, explained coach Hervé Renard after his players' victory over the DFB-Frauenteam. Our opponents are world champions and have been intractable for several months. »

Intractable, or almost. Since their coronation in Oceania, La Roja has played seven Nations League matches, for a record of six victories and one defeat. On December 1, 2023, the Iberians were surprised, at home, by an Italian team (3-2) only 13th in the FIFA rankings.

No defeat against La Roja

Another reason to believe in it for the French: they have never lost a single match against their neighbors in thirteen direct confrontations (ten wins and three draws). Their last confrontation dates back to 2019, in a friendly match, during which the Bleues won (2-0) thanks to the achievements of Eugénie Le Sommer, top scorer in the history of the selection (93 goals), and Delphine Cascarino . Two players from the trip to Andalusia.

The French group has only one change compared to the semi-final against Germany, the arrival of young Vicki Becho (20 years old). The Lyon striker replaces Sandy Baltimore, who had to leave due to a “family event”. As during the 2023 World Cup, Becho's speed will offer a new offensive possibility to Hervé Renard.

“It’s a team that scores a lot. [Les players] have scored 26 goals in this Nations League. They also concede a lot [nine goals conceded in the last seven games]. We will have to play on our weaknesses, even if Spain has more strong points than weak ones. It is above all a formidable collective in recovery, projection, transition. We have been warned,” the coach explained at a press conference on Tuesday.

The stylistic opposition between the formations should lead to a tactically interesting game. The two teams are mainly made up of players playing in their respective championships and who are therefore not used to meeting each other during the year, except in the Champions League. Only the French Sandie Toletti, midfielder at Real Madrid, rubs shoulders with Spanish women at club level.

She notably met on several occasions Aitana Bonmati, FC Barcelona player who won the 2023 Ballon d'Or. Considered "the Iniesta of women's football", according to Pep Guardiola, former emblematic coach of Barça today on the bench from Manchester City, the attacking midfielder is the real playing mistress of La Roja. In an interview given to L'Equipe, the day before the match, the person concerned refused the status of "favorite", believing that "the final would be a 50-50". It now remains to be seen which way the coin will fall.