Hooray for Hervé: New France women's team boss Renard recalls rebel skipper

By Paul Myers - RFI
Women Football  Natacha PisarenkoAP
APR 1, 2023 LISTEN
© Natacha Pisarenko/AP

Freshly-anointed France women's team head coach Hervé Renard on Friday launched his reign with the recall of his namesake rebel skipper and a sidelined star striker for two crucial friendly matches before the squad is named for the women's World Cup in the summer.

Renard, 54, was named on Thursday night as Corinne Diacre's replacement following her dismissal on 9 March after a meltdown between her and leading players including the veteran captain Wendie Renard.

The Lyon defender announced her international retirement in February stating that for the sake of her mental health she could no longer work with Diacre and her management team. Three other players followed suit to leave the Federation française de football in turmoil.

Though an FFF statement said it disapproved of the players' move, a panel was convened to analyse their grievances and the ambiance between Diacre and France internationals.

Despite leading France to the last eight at the 2019 World Cup and the semi finals at the 2022 European championships, Diacre was sacked.

"It's a page that's being turned and it has to be as positive as possible," said Hervé Renard as he announced the inclusion of Wendie Renard and Eugenie Le Sommer, France's all-time leading scorer, who had been omitted from teams for nearly two years.

"We can pay tribute to Corinne Diacre who has achieved very good results," he added.

Renard - who has never led a women's team in a 24-year international coaching career - resigned from his post in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to take up the role.  

 "He has experience at the highest level and is a successful coach," said the FFF's interim president Philippe Diallo.

"He has the charisma and leadership skills to take the team another step towards winning titles," Diallo added.

Renard will be joined by Laurent Bonadei and David Ducci, who worked with him in Saudi Arabia. Several women's football specialists will add their wieght to the coaching panel including Diacre's former assistant Eric Blahic and the goalkeeping coach Gilles Fouache.

"I've had my ups and downs," added Hervé Renard. "I followed my path, I started from the bottom. Wherever I go, I try to give the best image because I am someone like that. People either like me or they don't."

His first list of players came hours after French clubs Paris Saint-Germain and Lyon were dumped out of the Champions League. 

Lyon, who claimed the crown in 2022, lost a penalty shoot-out against Chelsea after the match ended 2-2 on aggregate.

PSG drew 1-1 at Wolfsburg but were eliminated 2-1 on aggregate.

Renard's first match in charge comes on 7 April against Colombia in Clermont-Ferrand. France will take on Canada four days later in Le Mans.

Renard will lead the sqaud at the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand and at next year's Olympic Games in Paris.

Renard rose to prominence as Claude Leroy's assistant when he was boss of Ghana at the Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana at the start of 2008.

By the spring of the same year, Renard had became head coach of the Zambia squad.

Kalusha Bwalya, the then president of the Zambia football federation, told RFI: "The federation was looking for someone who had something to prove and who could grow with the team."

Under Renard, the side reached the last eight at the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations. It was their first appearance in the knockout stages of the tournament for 14 years.

After brief stays with the Angola national team and USM Alger; Renard returned to Zambia in 2011 and the following year steered the side to their first Cup of Nations crown following a thrilling final against Cote d'Ivoire in Gabon.

In 2015, he took the Ivorians to the same title to become the first coach to hoist the trophy with two different teams.

During the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Renard's Saudi Arabia side caused the first huge shock of the tournament when they came from behind to beat Argentina 2-1.

The squad, however, could not maintain the ecstacy and lost to Mexico and Poland to slump out at the group stages.