France meet Iceland, Serbia, Greece and Slovenia in qualifying Group 3 and coach Elisabeth Loisel knows the draw could have been tougher.
France have qualified for the last three UEFA European Women's Championship final tournaments, but as they contemplate their 2009 bid - in which they face Iceland, Serbia, Greece and Slovenia in qualifying Group 3 - they will want to bounce back after a FIFA Women's World Cup campaign that ended in disappointment.
World Cup exit
For the 2003 global tournament, France beat England in a play-off to qualify for the first time. As they also won the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship that year, it seemed things were on the up. But four years on the World Cup bid began with a shock 1-0 home defeat against the Netherlands and ended with a 1-1 draw against England - who will go to China instead of Les Bleues.
Coach Elisabeth Loisel, however, is looking forward - not least as the continued success of their U19 selection, European runners-up for the last two years, has proved that their Clairefontaine academy is just as successful as producing female talent as male stars. Looking at the draw, Loisel said: "It is rather favorable compared to the nations which we could have met like Italy or the Netherlands. Now, we will have to be wary because we do not know our opponents so well, we have not played them for a long time. Due to the format, qualification is easier than for the World Cup. But our objective is obviously to finish top."
Iceland, who coincidentally will host the U19 finals next summer, are a consistently strong nation at senior level. They reached the play-offs in 1997 and 2001 - only to have the misfortune of coming up against Germany and Norway respectively - and made the two-legged quarter-finals in 1995, where they were beaten by England. Their 2007 World Cup campaign was more disappointing, but they did draw 2-2 in Sweden. And of course they benefit from being able to call on Margret Lara Vidarsdottir, who struck eight goals in World Cup qualifying.
Serbia and Greece are familiar opponents, and the former have the upper hand. Then combined with Montenegro, Serbia defeated Greece twice in 2007 World Cup qualifying to secure the only points that either side managed. Both recently made their way up from the old second tier of nations, Serbia in 2003 and Greece two years later - for the latter this is their first crack at full European qualification since the 1993 edition. While in the second division, they played in the 1997 EURO and 1999 and 2003 World Cups - all those six games also producing victory for the former Yugoslavia.
Slovenia, who had left that union by then, are in the top level for the first time, but were excused the preliminary round as they won all six of their matches in World Cup non-qualifying Group 6, their comeback to competitive women's football after more than a decade away. They will hope things go better than in the 1995 edition, where they lost their six games and conceded 60 goals without reply.