FIFA Women's World Cup semi-finalists France were cheered on by a record crowd for their homecoming 2-0 friendly defeat of Poland in Lens on Wednesday.
The fourth-place finish in Germany was a breakthrough for French female football, following swiftly from Olympique Lyonnais's UEFA Women's Champions League triumph. The unprecedented interest was confirmed when 18,305 fans – the highest ever for a France women's friendly – created a festive atmosphere at Stade Bollaert for the UEFA Women's EURO 2013 qualifying warm-up.
Lyon's Élodie Thomis broke the deadlock after just 35 seconds. Élise Bussaglia was also on target before half-time against a Poland team who only just missed out on the World Cup qualifying play-offs.
"What a joy to play in this stadium," France coach Bruno Bini said. "
The girls were moved by the warm welcome." Attacker Gaëtane Thiney added: "We're on a springboard and taking women's football a step further. We're backed by our federation and I'm confident another adventure is ahead."
That adventure begins on 14 September in Israel when France kick off their qualifiers in Group 4, which also contains the Republic of Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Those three were all in action this week with Ireland losing 1-0 at home to Switzerland, who had been beaten 5-0 in Scotland two days before. Anna Signuel's team then defeated Belgium 1-0 in Falkirk as Wales won 2-0 in Northern Ireland.
Poland, meanwhile, are in Group 1 and welcome Russia on 21 September with Israel, Greece, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia also involved. Russia prepared with a 1-0 loss in Belgium, while elsewhere Slovakia defeated the Czech Republic 1-0 and Austria 4-0, the Netherlands drew 1-1 in China and Portugal beat Turkey 2-0.
The second Sweden 2013 qualifier is also played on Thursday with Belarus up against Estonia in Group 5. Iceland have already overcome Group 3 rivals Bulgaria 6-0.
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