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France squad for Women’s Euro 2022: player profiles - Renard, Katoto, Palis...

Captained by Wendie Renard, France’s Euro 2022 squad goes to England looking to get beyond the quarter-finals for the first time in the tournament’s history.

Théo Troude
Captained by Wendie Renard, France’s Euro 2022 squad goes to England looking to get beyond the quarter-finals for the first time in the tournament’s history.

As part of the Guardian’s Women’s Euro 2022 Experts’ Network, a collaboration between media outlets from 16 countries, AS is offering in-depth profiles of the players in all 16 squads at the tournament, which runs from 6 to 31 July. This lowdown on the France squad is written by France Football’s Théo Troude.

Pauline Peyraud-Magnin

Date of birth: 17 March 1992 (30)

Position: Goalkeeper

Club: Juventus

The indisputable first choice between the posts for her country, Peyraud-Magnin has already made history in France, becoming the first active international to come out as gay, in October 2020. “I don’t want to hide who I am, it’s normal,” she said. Her career, meanwhile, is more extraordinary than normal, becoming the most expensive goalkeeper in women’s football when she joined Juventus from Atlético Madrid in 2021. Started playing football as a striker before once “helping out” in goal. Always wears something green under her jersey as a tribute to her superhero nickname. “Off the pitch I’m Bruce Banner, calm and thoughtful, but on the pitch, I become The Hulk,” she said once.

Justine Lerond

Date of birth: 29 February 2000 (22)

Position: Goalkeeper

Club: Metz

A last-minute surprise, Lerond had never played at international level when she was called up as a replacement for Solène Durand, who suffered a cruciate ligament injury. Part of the Under-19 squad that won the Euros in 2019, alongside players such as Melvine Malard, Selma Bacha and Sandy Baltimore. Corinne Diacre said when announcing her place in the squad: “She is the starting goalkeeper for the Under-23 team so it was logical for us that Justine would be the first one to knock on the door of the first team.” Lerond cites Alisson Becker as her favourite keeper.

Mylène Chavas

Date of birth: 7 January 1998 (24)

Position: Goalkeeper

Club: Bordeaux

The literature heavyweight of this team, she reads George Orwell, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and Ernest Hemingway among others. A future starting goalkeeper for Les Bleues always has a cultural reference to hand – and is not afraid to share them. Also wants to shape the future of women’s football off the pitch and was a club delegate of the UNFP (National Union of Professional Footballers) when she was at Dijon. Was part of the 2016 Under-19 Euros winning squad together with several of today’s senior squad, including Marie-Antoinette Katoto, Grace Geyoro, Delphine Cascarino and Clara Mateo.

See also:

Eve Périsset

Date of birth: 24 December 1994 (27)

Position: Right back

Club: Bordeaux

For a long time it looked like it was the older brother, David, who would be making Périsset headlines in the world of football. However, having come through the Lyon academy, he struggled to make the step from the reserves to the first team and Eve, who had been sitting on the sidelines watching him, took over the baton. The rest of her career is history with successful spells at France’s two main clubs, Lyon and PSG. Now at Bordeaux, a club with more modest aims, she has set new targets: to start a family and become a real estate agent.

Marion Torrent

Date of birth: 17 April 1992 (30)

Position: Right back/central defender

Club: Montpellier

It was a normal day in the summer of 2004 in Provence when a scout from Montpellier came to watch the best young boys in the area. It proved to be a fruitful trip because Valentin Eysseric, Bryan Dabo and Julien Lopez, who were there that day, became professional footballers. However, they were all upstaged by one girl, a certain Marion Torrent, who was 12 at the time. She accepted an offer from Montpellier, left home and has yet to return. Rarely has a French player been so associated with one city, one club. The Montpellier president, Louis Nicollin, used to call her “ma Chouchou” (my favourite).

Wendie Renard

Date of birth: 20 July 1990 (31)

Position: Central defender

Club: Lyon

A titan of the game who has no fewer than 14 league titles and eight European Cups with Lyon. Born in Martinique, she had to overcome the fact that her dad died of cancer when she was eight and moved to France permanently at the age of 16. Her success has transcended sport though and she is a well-known figure in France. In 2017, she announced her public support for Emmanuel Macron during his first run for presidency and he responded by praising the defender in his new year’s speech in 2020. “She had a difficult season, yet she found the fortitude to win a seventh Champions League with her club, a record, and to make us dream in this grey period.”

Griedge Mbock

Date of birth: 26 February 1995 (27)

Position: Central defender

Club: Lyon

To reassure her mother Dominique, who had left Cameroon to continue her studies in France, Mbock had to finish school before completely devoting herself to football. After a BA in economics and a local managerial diploma, she established herself in Lyon and in the French team. She comes from a real football family and was able to admire and watch her elder brother, Erwan, when she was growing up. He ended up playing in the French fifth division while the youngest sibling, Hianga’a, followed in Griedge’s footsteps and made it all the way to the top league, with Brest in 2019.

Aïssatou Tounkara

Date of birth: 16 March 1995 (27)

Position: Central defender

Club: Atlético Madrid

The Tounkara siblings are successful. Like her brother Soulemane, a model who has already worked for Givenchy, Emporio Armani or Prada, Aïssatou has made a name for herself in her area of expertise. The Parisian of Gambian origin may well have a chance of playing with Renard in central defence this summer ahead of Mbock, Tounkara’s friend on and off the pitch. They jokingly call each other “ma fesse gauche” (my left buttock) and “ma fesse droite” (my right buttock). Tounkara is the right side, apparently. The two players say they are delighted to be rivals to play for France.

Hawa Cissoko

Date of birth: 10 April 1997 (25)

Position: Central defender

Club: West Ham United

In January 2021, the Franco-Malian became the first professional player to wear the hijab. Not on the pitch but before taking to the pitch. The West Ham player chose to start wearing it after a period of reflection when she struggled to make it back into the team after injury. She explained that the hijab is more than a scarf, it is a mindset, a way of behaving. She points out that she represents her community when she wears it and feels it has helped her develop as a person. “I am even better in my head and my body. I am feeling good,” she told French magazine Onze Mondial. Whether it was down to the change in approach or not, but Cissoko has been a dominant force in the West Ham defence since returning to the team.

Sakina Karchaoui

Date of birth: 26 January 1996 (26)

Position: Left back

Club: Paris Saint-Germain

Karchaoui is nicknamed “the influencer”. She is by far the most popular female French player on social media, the Provence native recently crossing the 500,000 followers mark on Instagram. Since her arrival in the national team in 2016, the exposure has led to commercial deals with companies such as Louis Vuitton and Pandora. That does not mean, however, that she has lost her focus on football. “If someone comes to interview me without asking questions about football, I do not answer anymore, it does not interest me,” she told So Foot.

Selma Bacha

Date of birth: 9 November 2000 (21)

Position: Left back

Club: Lyon

With only four caps for Les Bleues at the time of writing, Bacha has not yet become a leader for the national team but that could well change. Put it his way, she is a good talker. In April, the Lyonnaise reached the final of the national eloquence contest organised by the French federation, speaking on the following subject: “to be, or to appear, that is the question”. Bacha did not win the contest, but Karchaoui’s understudy in the national team could console herself by already having played, at the age of 21, more than 100 matches for OL. Her “sister” in the French team is Griedge Mbock.

Charlotte Bilbault

Date of birth: 5 June 1990 (32)

Position: Midfielder

Club: Bordeaux

Bilbault has a fight on her hands: promoting football to young girls in primary schools. Parallel to her career, she has obtained a DEJEPS, a state diploma for youth, popular education and sport. “Girls also have the right to play,” is her motto. The Bordeaux player is the No 1 defensive midfielder in the French squad and one of Corinne Diacre’s first names on the squad sheet, regularly dropping Amandine Henry or Kheira Hamraoui instead. Diacre recently said: “Sometimes we don’t pick the best players, we just want to find a balance in the team.”

Ella Palis

Date of birth: 24 March 1999 (23)

Position: Midfielder

Club: Bordeaux

Palis could be the revelation of this European Championship, having come into the team recently and displaying all her talent. Corinne Diacre loves her qualities as a defensive midfielder, even if Palis wears the No 10. The coach could even turn a blind eye to her lack of match practice at Bordeaux because of Bilbault being ahead of her in the pecking order at club level. They are direct rivals for the national team too. “Ella has shown that she can play at this level, I’m convinced,” Diacre has said. “But she has to play, and I told her so.”

Kenza Dali

Date of birth: 31 July 1991 (30)

Position: Midfielder

Club: Everton

In 2015, three weeks after playing at the World Cup, Dali thought she may have to quit football. Returning to training with PSG she had to stop immediately. “Four strides, then it felt like I was getting stabbed in the knee,” she told Surface Magazine. “I couldn’t run anymore.” It turned out to be a rare variant of Iliotibial band syndrome that is difficult to operate on. She returned eight months later and forced her way back into the French team. In 2019, she told the Guardian about the awful period when her brother died and her mother was diagnosed with cancer. “I would tell myself to look at my mother’s bravery,” she said. “She always smiled. Even without her hair. For a woman it’s really difficult to not have hair and eyelashes – you don’t feel like a woman any more. Cancer breaks everything.”

Sandie Toletti

Date of birth: 13 July 1995 (26)

Position: Midfielder

Club: Levante UD

Her father was an amateur coach in Cavillargues, in the south of France, and her mother was the secretary of the club, so no surprise that Toletti soon played there (with her brothers). It was the beginning of a rapid run to the French team. The playmaker was voted the best player of the Under-17 World Cup, which was won by Les Bleuettes (small Bleues) and then called up to the first team at the age of 18. She remained in the team from 2013 to 2017 but then lost her place because of injuries. She never gave up, though, and finally earned a recall in February 2021.

Grace Geyoro

Date of birth: 2 July 1997 (25)

Position: Midfielder

Club: Paris Saint-Germain

Born in Kolwezi, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Geyoro came to France at the age of two as her mother wanted “a better life and education” for her daughter and her eldest son, Yann. Geyoro started as a goalkeeper (because of her brother who wanted to practise his shooting). She was soon playing outfield though and was soon spotted by PSG, whom she joined at age 15 in 2012. A born leader, she became PSG captain when she was 24 and had to face awkward questions about the Hamraoui affair. “I tried to be fair and not to take sides,” she told RMC Sport. Her post-career dream is to run a TV presenter for a sports show.

Clara Mateo

Date of birth: 28 November 1997 (24)

Position: Midfield

Club: Paris FC

An engineering graduate from the Ecole Polytechnique de Paris-Saclay in 2020, Mateo is the player with the highest education in the French squad. The Nantes native never wanted to stop her studies, even though she had already become an international footballer. “It’s a matter of personal balance,” the midfielder told Le Parisien. “To clear my head and enrich my life I need to get away from football and to have other discussions with other people. Football and studies, they go together in my life.” Mateo has recently become a starter for Diacre’s side.

Sandy Baltimore

Date of birth: 19 February 2000 (22)

Position: Forward

Club: Paris Saint-Germain

As late as April her PSG training ground altercation with Kheira Hamraoui reminded everyone that the Hamraoui affair still lingers and could affect the team at the Euros. Baltimore is a close friend of Aminata Diallo, who was initially arrested after the assault on Hamraoui in November before being released without any charge. As for the training ground bust-up Baltimore was allegedly insulted by Hamraoui and the two players nearly came to blows. In the end they had to be separated by their teammates and a crisis meeting was held. In the aftermath, PSG was eliminated in the semi-finals of the Champions League by Lyon, amid a toxic atmosphere. Her closest friends in the French team are Marie-Antoinette Katoto and Kadidiatou Diani.

Delphine Cascarino

Date of birth: 5 February 1997 (25)

Position: Forward

Club: Lyon

For a second major tournament, the Cascarino twins are separated. Just as in 2019, Delphine has been selected, but not Estelle. They have, however, already made history together. In 2018 they made French football history by becoming the first twins to play for a national team. The funny thing is that they couldn’t be more different as players. Delphine is right-footed forward with Estelle being a left-footed full-back. They both started at Lyon but Estelle then joined PSG while Delphine stayed - and kept winning - at Lyon. Maybe that has been a decisive factor in their international careers.

Kadidiatou Diani

Date of birth: 1 April 1995 (27)

Position: Forward

Club: Paris Saint-Germain

Diani’s teammates nicknamed her Beyoncé, whose songs she loves to sing and whose style she likes to copy. “I like her elegance, I sometimes put on makeup before matches,” Diani said before the 2019 World Cup. Staying feminine has always been a goal: her father did not want his daughter – the first girl to play in the history of Vitry [a small club near Paris] – to become a tomboy. “But when he saw that it was getting more serious, he agreed that I should definitely get into football.” Her best friends in the national team are Aminata Diallo and Marie-Antoinette Katoto with the latter having Diani’s husband as her agent.

Marie-Antoinette Katoto

Date of birth: 1 November 1998 (23)

Position: Forward

Club: Paris Saint-Germain

If France wins the Euros, Katoto will be among the favourites for the Women’s Ballon d’Or (and the Guardian’s top 100 footballers of course). The striker, voted best player in the French first division this season, managed to score a goal a game in the league. In fact, her performances saved PSG from sinking completely in the aftermath of the Hamraoui affair. To show her support for her friend Aminata Diallo, initially accused of the assault but later released without charge, she celebrated her double against the Netherlands in February by making an “A” with her fingers, right in front of Kheira Hamraoui, who was on the bench. She was joined in the celebration by her best friend, Kadidiatou Diani.

Marie-Antoinette Katoto is among the world's best players.
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Marie-Antoinette Katoto is among the world's best players.Anthony DibonGetty

Melvine Malard

Date of birth: 28 June 2000 (22)

Position: Forward

Club: Lyon

Malard is the only representative of Reunion, a French island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, in the squad. And make no mistake, she is a phenomenon. At the age of 14, she impressed Sonia Bompastor, the current coach of Lyon, finishing as the top scorer in the National Under-15 Cup. “The club gave me two months to think about coming, it only took me two days!” she said once. “I said to myself: ‘Is that where Wendie Renard plays? Let’s jump the sea [local expression].’” Already a four-time Champions League winner before her 22nd birthday, Malard has the potential, like Renard, to become an icon and a hero for young girls living outside metropolitan France.

Ouleymata Sarr

Date of birth: 8 October 1995 (26)

Position: Forward

Club: Paris FC

Sarr’s story is not a common one: it is that of a girl who did not want to play with girls but was saved by a Lyon player. Born in northern France, to Mauritanian parents, the striker grew up in Evreux, Normandy. At 13, she was still playing with the boys. “It went so well with them that I didn’t want to change. Instead I stopped playing football, she told Paris-Normandie. “Mathieu Bodmer [an OL player and president of Evreux FC] came to tell me that he needed me and was counting on me. Since then, with the girls, things have gone pretty well!”


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