One of the most eagerly awaited games of the 2015 Women’s World Cup group stage will take the field in Moncton, New Brunswick, on Tuesday, with European heavyweights France and England going head-to-head. The match will rekindle an intense recent rivalry between the neighboring nations. Four years ago in Germany, France got the better of England in the World Cup quarterfinals courtesy of a penalty shootout, and two years later they delivered a far more emphatic 3-0 victory in the group stage of Euro 2013.
Indeed it has been a rivalry dominated by France in recent times, with England going without a victory since 1974. And France, which lost to the United States in the semifinals in 2011 come into this tournament with real ambitions of making it all the way to the final -- at least -- for the very first time. Coach Philippe Bergeroo’s team claimed an impressive win over the U.S. earlier this year, and with players of the caliber of Louisa Necib have risen to third in the FIFA rankings. Having previously flattered to deceive somewhat in major championships, also losing in the semifinals of the 2012 Olympics, Bergeroo is cautiously optimistic that now could be their time.
“Win a major tournament, I hope so,” he told UEFA.com. “But when I look at the nations taking part in the World Cup, there are at least seven nations who can reach the podium, such as Germany, the United States, Japan, Brazil, Canada. We just played Canada and won 1-0, but it wasn't easy. Then you have all the Nordic countries too.
“Reaching the podium would be something really exceptional for these girls, because they have missed out on the podium for so many years now. We hope this will be the right time.”
It certainly won’t be a case of win or bust in the opening game. From a group that also contains Mexico and Colombia, two teams will qualify, while the four best third-place teams from the six World Cup groups will also progress into the Round of 16. But, playing in what in 2002 became Canada’s first official bilingual city, there will be plenty of desire on both English and French sides to make an early statement of their intent.
England has had their preparations for the game disrupted by both injury illness, which has impacted captain Steph Houghton and forward Jodie Taylor, among others, although all are expected to be fit for Tuesday. Mark Sampson’s side, currently ranked sixth in the world, will also be aiming to put behind them what was a chastening 3-0 home defeat to Germany last November as well as a 1-0 loss to Canada in its final warm-up match. And Sampson admitted that his team has plenty to prove opening up against one of the pre-tournament favorites.
“France are probably ahead of us at the minute, the world rankings don't lie,” he said, according to BBC Sport. “When we are at our best we are at their level and we can win this match, but we haven't done it enough.”
Kickoff time: 1 p.m. EDT
TV Channel: Fox Sports 1,