Herve Renard earned plaudits for leading Zambia’s men’s team to the Africa Cup of Nations title in 2012 and Saudi Arabia’s performance at last year’s World Cup, but those achievements have not put him under pressure as he prepares to take charge of France at the upcoming Women’s World Cup.
Renard was appointed as the France women’s head coach in March, coming in as a replacement for Corinne Diacre after he resigned as head coach of the Saudi Arabia men’s team.
The French federation hired Renard after Diacre’s position became untenable as captain Wendie Renard said she would not play at the World Cup if the coach remained in charge.
Since embarking on a new adventure with the French women’s team, Renard has emphasized the importance of team spirit.
“When I take charge of a national team, I like us to be united, united for the country, for the flag and the national anthem. I always give the same speech and won’t be changing it, as I don’t adapt just because I’m coaching a different team,” Renard said, according to an interview with FIFA.
“Above all, I want a tight-knit group, as football is a collective sport. Without unity, we can’t achieve anything – I insist on that all the time, and it’ll always be my guiding principle. No one can be outside this framework, and no one is above the national team.”
A two-time winner of the Africa Cup of Nations, with Zambia in 2012 and Cote d’Ivoire in 2015, Renard knows how to win trophies.
He also knows how to extract shock results – his Saudi Arabia team pulled off a stunning group-stage win over eventual champions Argentina at the World Cup in Qatar last year, a result which statisticians Gracenote credited as the biggest upset in World Cup history.
Asked if he feels extra pressure at the World Cup due to those achievements, Renard answered: “I have no problem with that. I prefer to have won things and have that label than have nothing on my honours list and have people say that ‘one day he might win something.’ I always take the positive side of things.”
France, who lost in the quarter-finals of the 2019 Women’s World Cup on home soil, are in Group F at the July 20-August 20 tournament along with Jamaica, Brazil and Panama.
Renard says their first target for this year is to improve on their result from the last edition.
“It’s something clear. At the last edition in 2019, the team reached the quarter-finals, so we have to do better in 2023. We don’t need long speeches; we’re on a mission to achieve this goal. Saying it is good, but now let’s get to work.”
France’s best performance at the World Cup came in 2011 in Germany when they reached the semi-finals. They will be hoping to build on the good form that saw them reach the semi-finals of the European Championship last year, even without their all-time top scorer, Eugenie Le Sommer.
Le Sommer is available for this year’s tournament, while captain Renard has also been recalled under new coach Renard. France also has a pool of young but experienced players such as Selma Bacha, Sandy Baltimore, and Oriane Jean-Francois.
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