France may have the most to prove as they begin their 2017 SheBelieves Cup title defense under Corinne Diacre in her first major test as the head coach for Les Bleues at this year's round-robin tournament.
The 43-year-old brings a team of players ready to prove themselves after a disappointing 2017 UEFA Women's Euro last summer and a major setback in a friendly against Germany this past November. The quarterfinals exit at the EURO's also ended head coach Olivier Echouafni's time with the national team and began an era to rebuild under Diacre's leadership.
The 2018 SheBelieves Cup is an opportunity for the #6-ranked French team to show that they are still one of the world's top teams, especially as they look ahead to host the FIFA Women's World Cup in 2019.
Looking Back: 2017 SheBelieves Cup
The 2017 edition showed that France could finally cement themselves as a team who could compete against the likes of England, Germany, and the United States. And they did, earning a 2-1 victory over England in their first game, tying with England in their second match, and beating the United States 3-0 to capture a major tournament title.
In the 3-0 victory over the United States, France took advantage of the USWNT's 3-back experimentation system with counter-attacks and speed to give the Americans one of their toughest losses of 2017.
Looking Ahead: 2018 SheBelieves Cup
The moment of success at the 2017 tournament was short-lived, however. France, one of the favorites going into the 2017 UEFA Women's Euro, bowed out in the quarterfinals, losing to England. Echouafni was relieved of his head coaching duties and Diacre took over. Four consecutive friendly victories gave France a boost of confidence, but a 4-0 loss to Germany in a friendly in late November was seen as a setback.
France comes to the 2018 edition looking like an entirely different team from the one who raised the trophy a year ago. For one, France comes without the likes of Camille Abily, who retired, and Wendi Renard, who is sidelined with an ankle injury, leaving the defense without her commanding presence in the backline. Players like Estelle Cascarino, Ouleymata Sarr, Faustine Robert, and Maéva Clemaron were called to the roster in hopes they are to step up into the core of the national team with the 2019 FIFA World Cup in the horizon.
Gaëtane Thiney, however, returns to the roster for the first time since the Women's Euro, and many have predicted that she can cement herself as a leader of the national team. Amandine Henry and Eugénie Le Sommer are two players with plenty of international experience, and they, too, will be expected to lead. Amel Majri is listed as a defender, which takes her away from her preferred midfield position.
How will France fare?
Le Sommer, Henry, Gaëtane as well as the backline will need to perform well against the top three teams in the world. The United States is past the experimental phase and has found their form and will face a better U.S. team than last year's roster. Germany, despite their 2017 struggles to finish in the top four of the Women's Euro, has shown that they can beat France in friendly play. England has a new head coach, and they, too, come with the pressures to perform well.
The 2017 winners were at their technical best last year, but the experimentation phase, setbacks, and losing key players will not see them repeat as winners unless they can overcome all of those factors.