The United States Women’s National Team begins their pre-World Cup exhibition schedule on Sunday against a tough France squad. The game kicks off at 12 pm Eastern time from Stade du Moustoir in Lorient, France. Preparations for the World Cup began in January when Coach Jill Ellis brought thirty players to training camp in California. Ellis brought 24 players to France.
The team has been shrouded in controversy due to goalkeeper Hope Solo being suspended for personal issues. There was also a lawsuit brought by several players, including forward Abby Wambach, against FIFA regarding the use of field turf for the World Cup. Players were demanding that games be played on natural grass instead. So the team began preparing for the tournament in Canada while facing some difficult distractions.
Aside from Solo, the team is also missing star attacker Megan Rapinoe, out with a strained ligament in her right knee. The team is still loaded, with stars Wambach, Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux, Carli Lloyd, Lauren Holiday and Morgan Brian. Nicole Barnhart and Ashlyn Harris will battle for the job in goal and it remains to be seen if Hope Solo will return to the team after her suspension.
The match with France kicks off a ten game exhibition schedule that includes the annual Algarve Cup in Portugal. The women will face England in the second game of the European trip on Friday the 13th in Milton Keynes, England. The preparations are critical for the U.S. as they have been given a difficult draw in Canada. They will face Australia, Sweden and Nigeria in the “Group of Death.”
France will be a formidable opponent, boasting the leading scorer in European qualifying in Gaetane Thiney. Thiney scored 13 goals, while Louisa Necib was credited with 13 assists. A strong defense is led by Laura Georges and Wendie Renard. France is now considered one of the top teams in the world after reaching the semifinals in the 2011 World Cup and the 2012 Olympics. The USA enter the match ranked second by FIFA, while France is third and will be a major contender in Canada.