France are currently preparing for the Rio 2016 Olympics and the four nation’s tournament is the best preparation in term of strong competitors you want to test yourself against.
Playing the ranked number 1 and 2 teams as well as the recent World Cup Bronze medal winner is as good as it gets and will certainly challenge the team. The only downside of the tournament is the location. It is far from Europe with a lot of travelling and jet lag as well as the timing as important Cup, League and Champions League games will be played straight after the tournaments ends.
Therefore it is no surprise to see many regulars with minor or big injuries left to rest with their respective clubs rather than travel with the team. Captain Wendie Renard, defensive midfielder and world class talent Amandine Henry as well as full back Laure Boulleau are all missing through injury.
The injury list is so bad that three players from the original 23 players list did not travel to the USA and as a knock-on effect the B team that travelled to Croatia for the Istria Cup ended up with six changes.
So the definite 23 players’ squad list is definitely not the strongest overall:
There are 10 OL players, 5 PSG players, 5 MHSC players, 2 Juvisy players and 1 Wolfsburg player
Goalkeepers: Sarah Bouhaddi (Olympique Lyonnais), Méline Gérard (Olympique Lyonnais), Laëtitia Philippe (Montpellier HSC)
Defenders: Sabrina Delannoy (Paris SG), Kelly Gadéa (Montpellier HSC), Laura Georges (Paris SG), Jessica Houara D’Hommeaux (Paris SG), Amel Majri (Olympique Lyonnais), Griedge Mbock Bathy (Olympique Lyonnais), Marion Torrent (Montpellier HSC)
Midfielders: Camille Abily (Olympique Lyonnais), Charlotte Bilbault (FCF Juvisy), Élise Bussaglia (VFL Wolfsburg), Kheira Hamraoui (Paris SG), Aurélie Kaci (Olympique Lyonnais), Louisa Nécib (Olympique Lyonnais), Claire Lavogez (Olympique Lyonnais)
Forwards: Kadidiatou Diani (FCF Juvisy), Marie-Laure Delie (Paris SG), Eugénie Le Sommer (Olympique Lyonnais), Marie-Charlotte Léger (Montpellier HSC), Élodie Thomis (Olympique Lyonnais), Viviane Asseyi (Montpellier HSC)
If we look position by position :
We probably have the best three French goalkeepers available, Bouhaddi selected as the number one due to experience probably as her reliability is always in question during tournaments.
In defence we will probably see M’Bock partner Georges at centre back with Delannoy as an alternative if the squad is rotated. Houara will play at right-back and Majri at left back. Torrent will cover at right back and Houara will cover at left-back. Gadea is a centre back but will be likely to see limited game time with four of them being selected.
In midfield Abily and Bussaglia are regular starters and with Henry unavailable Hamraoui is the number one defensive midfielder with Bilbault her understudy. Kaci also covers in central midfield as well as a right-back if really needed.
Necib and Lavogez are attacking midfielders who should play on the wing in Bergeroo’s favourite 4-4-2 system, unless he reverts to the 4-4-1-1 system we saw in January against Norway as we had only one senior centre forward available.
In attack the three senior players are selected with pacey winger Thomis and the two main centre forwards Delie and Le Sommer. Following Thiney retirement from the NT by the coaching staff, the search for a third reliable centre forward is still on:
Diani who was in the World Cup squad but only got six minutes on the pitch is back alongside promising U20 forward Leger who has scored 11 times in 16 league games this season. Winger Asseyi is there as a back-up for Thomis and Necib.
So Bergeroo’s strongest 11 looks to be Bouhaddi, Houara M’Bock Renard Majri, Thomis Abily Bussaglia Necib, Le Sommer Delie.
The big question will Bergeroo play his best 11 for the three game or will he rotate the squad. The last time he put an experimental side against a strong side like the USA ended up in a disaster last season at the Algarve Cup final with a 2-0 defeat.
He selected Bouhaddi, Houara Butel Delannoy Boulleau, Henry Hamraoui Abily, Le Sommer Thiney Diani and it is quite clear that the coach does not really trust the back-up players to be competitive against the top sides.
We also saw a little bit of flexibility from the previously rigid use of his favourite 4-4-2 system with an extra defensive midfield introduced in a 4-1-4-1 system as well as the 4-4-1-1 / 4-2-3-1 introduced in January.
Considering the recent performances following the World Cup campaign have not been really inspiring in term of attacking creativity and the finishing problem is still around, it would be wise to think that France will probably not win the SheBelieves Cup.