"It will be a great human adventure," reflected Bruno Bini, coach of France's fast-improving squad, as he spoke to UEFA.com ahead of their FIFA Women's World Cup campaign.
Article top media content
Bruno Bini masterminded France's first female tournament triumph at any level in the 2003 UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship in Leipzig – and now the charismatic coach is aiming to break their senior duck at the FIFA Women's World Cup which starts on Sunday, also in Germany.
France have a tough group against Nigeria, Canada and the hosts – who are also defending the trophy – but Bini's team are fast improving even since their UEFA Women's EURO 2009 quarter-final exit to the Netherlands on penalties. Indeed, following Olympique Lyonnais' triumph in the UEFA Women's Champions League against 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam, with many Bleues players involved, Bini is right to be excited.
UEFA.com: France have had some great results recently; how much have you improved?
Bruno Bini: Many young players have come into the team, two or three girls from the same generation, girls like Marie-Laure Delie, Eugénie Le Sommer. I think we are stronger than at the EURO. Four or five of the girls have gained more experience in the last two years, they have played many more international games. The girls in my squad come from four clubs, with many of them coming from Lyon, professional players who play football for a living. They have experienced Champions League games, the Juvisy players as well.
UEFA.com: Does it help that you coached so many of these players at U19 level?
Bini: They know how I manage the squad, they know my philosophy, they know it really well actually. It saves a lot of time.
UEFA.com: What do you think of your group?
Bini: People say that we are in the group of death, but I always say that it is the group of life. There were only 16 national coaches on stage [at the draw], and there were so many people wanting to be in our shoes. The only regret we can have is that we would have liked to face other nations, other continents, and we are in the only group with two European teams.
Apart from that there's another fact, we have drawn three confederation champions. Germany are European champions, Canada are CONCACAF champions and Nigeria are African champions. But I have checked again the FIFA regulations and the other teams will play with 11 players like us...
UEFA.com: Are you looking forward to the atmosphere of the finals?
Bini: When we visited the stadiums, Mr Reiner Bonhoff – for people of my generation he represents a lot – gave us the tour of [the Monchengladbach stadium where France play Germany] and at one point he patted me on the shoulder and said: "Coach, there are 48,000 seats and it will be sold out." It will be fantastic for the girls! Most of my job during the World Cup, more than the technical and tactical preparation, will be to keep some distance from the event itself, so that the girls don't sink under the pressure, under the demands.
Things are starting to simmer in France, many demands are coming in. Nothing like that has happened before... So we need to keep some distance, so that the girls only have to focus on the game and enjoy the game. But what a human adventure before being a sporting adventure! It will be a great human adventure.