There will be no strawberries and cream in sight when France open their UEFA Women's EURO 2013 bid against Russia on Friday, but the spirit of Wimbledon will live on in Norrkoping as Les Bleues aim to match the success of racket-wielding compatriot Marion Bartoli.
The French tennis player delighted an entire nation by winning the Wimbledon singles title at the weekend, and centre-back Wendie Renard feels her triumph can serve as an inspiration for Bruno Bini's side in Sweden. "I hope we can follow her example," she explained. "I was so happy for her because she's a girl who's had a hard time.
"I'm a tennis fan and it was great to see her win the title and, above all, share the moment with her family and coaches who supported her during her low points. I hope we can repeat what she did and we have all the qualities to do it, but we can't just say that – we need to do it on the pitch."
The need to prove their pedigree where it counts is a recurring theme for this France team, who are being billed as one of the tournament favourites. Les Bleues have yet to claim a major title, but fourth-placed finishes at the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup and 2012 Olympics raised their profile – and they subsequently turned heads by becoming the only side to win all their qualifiers for Sweden 2013.
"Other teams respect us more and more," said Renard. "At the World Cup and Olympics, we proved we can hold our own against the big nations, but it's your list of honours that matters most and for the moment we haven't won a big title. The other teams may fear us more, but it'll be the side that performs best and is most consistent that'll go all the way – and the one that recovers best between games and stays fresh until the final match."
France's heightened standing also owes much to Olympique Lyonnais, UEFA Women's Champions League winners in 2011 and 2012 before losing out in this year's showpiece to VfL Wolfsburg. Bini's squad contains 11 players from the 2012/13 French double winners, including Renard, and the 22-year-old is eager to ease the pain of that Wolfsburg defeat on Swedish soil.
"We want to finish the season in style", she said. "We're lucky enough to have a major Lyon spine in this France team and the loss to Wolfsburg was a big blow because we were set on winning our third straight final. Perhaps it was a kind of blessing in disguise because it's rallied us and given us the hunger to go as far as possible with France."
Their journey starts at Nya Parken against Group C rivals Russia. Renard featured when France won their most recent meeting 3-0 in a friendly last July, but she is adamant that she and her team-mates will go into the game with no assumptions. "They've changed coach recently and are rebuilding. They're a young squad who want to grow together, but there are no easy matches – just potential pitfalls. It's up to us to approach the game properly and respect our opponents, because that's the best way to win."
A victorious start would give Les Bleues an excellent foothold before contests against Spain and England, but crucially would also help cultivate a growing interest in women's football back home. "People are developing a taste for it in France," said Renard.
"We lag a little way behind the other nations, but it's starting to develop and people are beginning to recognise the quality of the players. Lots of people have fought for women's football and we're starting to reap the rewards of that. People are now saying we're capable of winning titles, so there's a positive pressure on us to bring the trophy back to France."
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