Olympique Lyonnais may have lost their grip on the UEFA Women's Champions League last week but the bulk of their squad could gain a different continental title in July – with France tipped by many to win UEFA Women's EURO 2013 in Sweden.
At the heart of both club and national team midfields is Camille Abily, capped more than 100 times by Les Bleues and a certain pick when Bruno Bini announces his finals squad on Friday. With Russia, Spain and England awaiting France in Norrkoping and Linkoping in Group C from 12 July, the 28-year-old tells UEFA.com about their new status after finishing fourth at the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup and 2012 Olympics – and the benefits of a strong Lyon connection
UEFA.com: What do you think of your draw?
Camille Abily: I honestly think it is a good draw. Being a seeded team helped a lot. Personally I think the favourites are France, Sweden and Germany. We know the other countries as well, especially England, and the Netherlands who are a very good team too. But the three big favourites are the three I've mentioned. We are then playing teams like Spain and Russia, who are developing countries with very good players. But if we play to our potential, we should go through. It wouldn't be normal for us not to go through.
UEFA.com: France have been outsiders for a while. But after two fourth places at the World Cup and Olympics, you are among the title favourites. How do you cope with higher expectations?
Abily: We manage to do that with our club. Most of the players in the national team play at OL. We are used to the role of favourites. It is always different with the national team. But as I said, we must be confident in our ability and prepare well to play our game. But then again, it's football, anything can happen. But I think that if we play and focus on our game, we have to opportunity to win this EURO.
UEFA.com: How much does it help to have so many players from Lyon?
Abily: Of course it helps, because we know each other almost by heart. With most of the players, we train together once or twice a day. Sometimes we don't even need to speak to know what the other will do. That is very important, and I think the success of this France team is also down to that.
UEFA.com: As a squad, what have you learned in previous competitions that could help you in Sweden?
Abily: I think it is important to have a big squad with a lot of quality, because in a tournament you play every two or three days. We must have the ability to repeat our efforts. At our club we sometimes play three times a week, but not on a regular basis. The girls not in the Champions League play once a week, they are not used to such a schedule. I think the recent competitions have taught us about the repetition of games, how to recuperate. Also regarding preparation, we now know how to prepare well for a tournament.
UEFA.com: England have been a recurring opponent in the last few years. What will be the key to that game?
Abily: They have very good players, with great technical skills and well drilled tactics. But I would say we have a bit more talent in our team, and also the ability to make the difference. I hope that will be the case during the EURO.
UEFA.com: Other than this year's final, Lyon have done well against German teams. Will that help France if you play Germany?
Abily: Mentally it is very important. With OL, when we faced the two German teams [in the 2011 and 2012 UEFA Women's Champions League finals], there were eight or nine French internationals on the pitch. We were of course helped by our foreign players, who help a lot, but we had a majority of French players. So obviously we face them again with the national team but we beat them with our club. It clearly helps getting rid of that mental barrier. Now when we face Germany, we are not scared any more.
UEFA.com: How have teams generally closed the gap on Germany?
Abily: First of all, with hard work. But also because now in France most of the players are professional, at least in the national team. I am talking about the whole league. At Lyon, we are lucky to have a president who invests a lot in women's football. We train morning and afternoon. We can recuperate better, we receive [physio] treatment. Before, the girls had to work and then go to training. We couldn't work in the same way.
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