By Pete Sanderson
The French national team have enjoyed a real upturn in fortune since the appointment of coach Elisabeth Loisel in 1997, qualifying for two UEFA European Women's Championships and their first FIFA Women's World Cup.
However, it was no surprise for anyone in France to see them drawn in the same group as Norway in Manchester. The Scandinavians have become all-too-familiar foes for Les Bleues, having beaten them in the group stage four years ago and dished out a similar treatment in the World Cup finals in 2003.
Not that Loisel is worried. Any squad blessed with world-class performers such as the prolific Marinette Pichon and uncompromising defender Corinne Diacre is, according to Loisel, a side to be feared. She is confident they can come through Group B despite also having to face defending champions Germany and Italy. The coach shared her views with uefa.com.
uefa.com: What are your objectives for WOMEN'S EURO 2005?
Elisabeth Loisel: Like every coach, when you qualify for this kind of competition, you do everything in your power to win the tournament.
uefa.com: You have been drawn in the same group as world and European champions Germany. How do you view this match?
Loisel: It will be a tough game.
All the teams who qualified worried about playing in the same group as Germany, even if nobody fears them. They are still one of the favourites. They have more experience than us, but they might have some weak points we can exploit. That is what we did last time when we beat them in a friendly. We have much more experience now than we did then, and this could be of great benefit when we face them. We want to take our chance.
uefa.com: Were you happy to be drawn against Norway?
Loisel: Well, they are also one of the favourites and in our recent meetings France have never seemed able to beat them. I just hope this will be our first victory against them. Everyone knows Norway are strong and a very physical team. I think they are athletically stronger than us, but we can play to our own strengths. In terms of passing, technique and movement we are stronger so there is no reason why we cannot beat them.
uefa.com: How important a role will your striker Marinette Pichon play?
Loisel: Marinette is a great scorer and she has proved that throughout her international career and in her time in the professional league in the United States, where she was at one point voted the best player. I think her only regret is not having won any official international title with the French national team, and this is perhaps the last chance she has to get a medal. She recently told me that this competition means a lot for her. I am sure she will score a lot of goals.
uefa.com: Do you think the north-west of England is a good place to host this tournament?
England is a great football country. It is where it all began after all. So, in a way, I think it is only right to come back to the origin of football. The true England fans are great football supporters. Anyway, it will be a thrill to play in this country where the atmosphere is always fabulous during a football match. It promises to be a wonderful event - and also a very competitive one.
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