France and Morocco have little left to learn about each other ahead of Tuesday’s meeting in Adelaide in the round of 16 of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023.
Bound by history, the two nations have strong footballing ties too. Summing up the relationship that exists between them on the pitch, France left-back Sakina Karchaoui recalled a very recent and high-profile encounter between the two: the semi-final between Les Bleus and the Atlas Lions at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.
“It was a match that was full of emotion for the two countries,” she said. “There’s no animosity between the two, anything but. We came together through sport then and we hope we can generate the same level of feeling now.”
The French defender is a symbol of the close links between the two teams. Proud to represent Les Bleues, she was born in southern France to Moroccan parents. “It’s a very emotional occasion, for me especially, but we have to switch off from all that on the pitch. We are elite athletes after all.”
Five of Reynald Pedros’ Morocco squad play their club football in France, among them Anissa Lahmari, the hero of the hour against Colombia. The midfielder runs out for Guingamp in the French top flight and also played for Les Bleues at youth level. “Anissa is a friend,” said Karchaoui, “I’ve kept in touch with her and I’m happy she’s in the team because she deserves it.”
When they arrive at Adelaide’s Hindmarsh Stadium on Tuesday, both sets of players will have good reason to share a chat and a hug or two. Though she is keen not to “pay any attention” to her opponents on the day, the France midfielder will no doubt catch up before the game with Morocco forward Kenza Chapelle, a former team-mate at French Division 1 club Fleury FC.
Pedros has a few familiar faces to meet up with too, with several of his former Lyon charges appearing in the France line-up: Wendie Renard, Selma Bacha, Amel Majri and Eugenie Le Sommer.
“I had two years with him at Lyon and we won some titles together,” said Le Sommer. “He’s played a big part in my career and it’s special to see him again at the World Cup, especially with Morocco and at this stage of the competition. It’s something I could never imagined.”
In this most Francophone of meetings, there are connections everywhere. Take Herve Renard’s team of assistant coaches, led by David Ducci, who have worked in Moroccan women’s football and know pretty much all there is to know about it.
Les Bleues coach also knows the Moroccan national team set-up well too, having taken charge of the Atlas Lions between 2016 and 2019, a tenure that included an appearance at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia. So strong is his attachment to them, in fact, that he made it clear he would be supporting his former players when they took on his native France in the semi-finals at Qatar 2022.
“It feels like we’re going to a big family reunion,” said Karchaoui.
With a place in the quarter-finals of the Women’s World Cup at stake, it is a reunion that promises to be a very exciting one.
The post Ahead of Women’s World Cup clash: The ties that bind Morocco and France first appeared on Sports Village Square.