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Euro 2017

France’s biggest Euro 2017 opponent is themselves

Amandine Henry provides the option out wide during a defensive play for France. (MEG LINEHAN/Equalizer Soccer)

Amandine Henry has been France’s star of Euro 2017 so far. (MEG LINEHAN/Equalizer Soccer)

TILBURG, Netherlands – As France gets set to play Switzerland on Wednesday night in Breda, they find themselves in a precarious position. Les Bleus are currently sitting second in Group C with 4 points, tied with Austria. Switzerland have 3 points, in third position. While France didn’t lose against Austria, a 1-1 draw was a surprise for the third-ranked FIFA team.

Olivier Echouafni’s squad had a possession advantage of 66% – 34%, but they lacked quality finish in the final third. That’s dramatically going to have to change against Switzerland. Fielding a starting lineup without explosive players like Camille Abily, Claire Lavogez, Élodie Thomis, and defender Laura Georges was a head scratcher.

Austria goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger was fantastic in net. France had seven shots on target, but could only muster a single goal. Austria earned a result, and France wasn’t bothered enough to win. Portland Thorns FC midfielder Amandine Henry was the best player for France when a lot of her teammates were passengers. For France to be successful, they need to play as a team and have everyone on the same page, something they don’t always do.

“I think anything is possible, [but] we have to win against Switzerland,” Henry said.

If France fail to finish first in Group C and remain in second spot, they will likely play England in the quarterfinals at Stadion De Adelaarshorst in Deventer on Sunday. A fixture with two historic rivals, that favors France immensely. England have not defeated France since 1974, a span of nineteen matches. France hold a dominance over England, comparable to the United States defeating Canada time and time again.

Despite having England in their back pockets, Henry would not say who she would rather face in the quarterfinals. England, Spain, and Portugal are all possibilities.

“I don’t know. We don’t have time now,” she said. “We have to win against Switzerland, and after we will see.”

This could be the perfect time for England to pick up a long-awaited victory. It didn’t happen at the SheBelieves Cup after France tied the match late with a Marie-Laure Delie goal, and a Wendie Renard header won the match, 2-1, deep into stoppage time.

The Lionesses will have learned from that result, and you can see that in victories over Scotland and Spain. England is playing top football, and France are firing blanks.

“I think France has good players,” said Henry. “Our football is very beautiful, but we have to be more efficient. On the other hand, we know who wins or who lost, but we don’t know who played good.”

If France falls at EURO 2017, it will be because of themselves. A team with the talent, skill, and depth that France have should not be struggling to gets results against Austria and Iceland.

The only team that can beat France is France. They seem to have an automatic combust button that’s activated during a major tournament. While mistakes are part of the norm, France needs to eliminate mistakes, be more clinical, and sharp, or it could be au revoir.

“It’s normal that we did mistakes because we had more possession,” admitted Henry. “We try a lot, it’s normal. I think in football, we have to try every time. We have to manage more of the risk.”

Some mistakes are simply the result of a lack of focus. Goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi routinely gives the ball away and make things a lot more interesting for herself. It didn’t cost her against Austria, but it if she tempts fate again, it could. It’s time for France to play the beautiful game everyone expects they can and to show that Euro 2017 won’t be another tournament of disappointment for Les Bleus.


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