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WORLD CUP DIARY

WORLD CUP

French WAGs turn out to see Les Bleus qualify

The wives and girlfriends (WAGs)of the France's football players were in Rio on Wednesday night to see their beloveds reach the next round of the World Cup. Unluckily for them, their partners could only manage a 0-0 draw against Ecuador.

French WAGs turn out to see Les Bleus qualify
Fiona Cabaye wife Yohan, the girlfriend of Loic Remy, Mazda Magui the wife of Mamadou Sakho, Ludivine Sagna the wife of Bacary Sagna and Sandra Evra the wife of France's defender Patrice Evra. Photo:

The WAGs française made a conspicious presence inside the famous Maracana stadium in Rio di Janeiro on Wednesday night as their loved ones eased through to the last 16 of the World Cup with a 0-0 dreaw against Ecuador.

With the action on the pitch not living up to the excitement of France's 5-2 drubbing of Switzerland last Friday, the attention of photographers inside the stadium soon turned to the stands. 

The players' partners had been flown out to Brazil on the eve of the match and were soon at the centre of a media storm when reports emerged that they had demanded to be upgraded to a more a five star luxury hotel from the four star accomodationthey had been given.

Those claims were quickly denied however by the French Football Federation.

The wives and girlfriends seemed to be getting as much media attention as the players themselves. It is not clear how long they will remain in Brazil for, bu that will probably depend on how long France can stay in the competition. They face what appears to be a fairly straightforward last 16 tie against Nigeria on Monday.

Deschamps said Les Bleus would have "to fight" to get to the next round.

"Nigeria are a strong fast team who have great qualities and it is going to be a really difficult match and we will have to fight."

Deschamps admitted that his decision to make sweeping changes prevented Les Bleus from performing at their best in a 0-0 World Cup draw with Ecuador.

"When there are changes it does have an impact on the cohesion of the team," he said after the draw.

Deschamps made six changes to the team that hammered Switzerland 5-2 last Friday, including bringing in Morgan Schneiderlin for his first international start in place of the banned Yohan Cabaye.

The draw against an Ecuador side, that played most of the second half with 10 men after Antonio Valencia was sent off, sealed France's qualification, but their performance was nothing like the spectacular showing against the Swiss.

"I could put out the same team every time, but then it would be pointless having the other players here," added Deschamps.

"I have confidence in all 23 players and we needed to find the right balance between preserving some who have played a lot of games and making sure that others who we may require later on are in good condition.

"It takes away some of the fluidity and we were less dangerous in the first half. After the red card we had a bit more space and some good moves but were not as clinical in front of goal as usual.

"Maybe this result will calm some people down. The World Cup is the highest level and we can't win every game by three goals."

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FOOTBALL

France plans to keep growing women’s game after World Cup disappointment

France faces the challenge of continuing to develop women's football after the bitter disappointment of elimination from the World Cup by the United States.

France plans to keep growing women's game after World Cup disappointment
France players after the defeat against USA. Photo: AFP

“Back to Earth” was how sports daily L'Equipe put it after the host nation lost 2-1 to the holders in a quarter-final played out before a feverish crowd in Paris.

L'Equipe talked of “the disappointment of a shattered adventure” because coach Corinne Diacre's team had dreamt of emulating the men, World Cup winners in Russia last year and also winners as hosts in 1998.

The team had been desperate to make it to Lyon, where the semi-finals and final will be played and where seven of those who featured for France on Friday play their club football for Europe's top side.

Instead, France find themselves out of a fifth straight major tournament in the quarter-finals. To rub salt into the wounds, Friday's defeat had the knock-on effect of denying them a place at next year's Olympics.

Diacre had been set the objective of reaching the final, which always looked a daunting challenge once the draw raised the likelihood of an early meeting with the USA.

Amid the dejection on Friday, Diacre stated her wish to continue, and on Saturday French Football Federation (FFF) President Noel Le Graet confirmed she would stay.

“She will be in charge until the end of her contract, if not longer,” Le Graet told AFP.

That means until Euro 2021 in England at least, and the aim in France is to keep developing the women's game to give them a chance of one day going all the way.

The FFF hope the number of registered female players will reach 200,000 next year, an increase of almost 10 percent from present figures, but far from the two million registered male players.

They have also promised to invest 15 million euros into a post-World Cup “legacy” fund.

The interest in the women's game is there, as shown by television audiences during the World Cup, with 11.8 million watching the USA game on terrestrial TV.

However, translating that to an increased following in the women's domestic league will be a bigger challenge.

France games have drawn sell-out crowds at the World Cup, but in general attendances in domestic competition are modest at best, even if almost 26,000 saw powerhouses Lyon beat closest rivals Paris Saint-Germain earlier this year.

“We cannot go from so much enthusiasm now to league matches on poor pitches with only 120 fans,” said Le Graet. “We all need to make an effort and we will.”

Matches are televised, but like elsewhere income remains light years from rights deals in the men's game — a new sponsorship contract for the 12-club top flight with chemicals company Arkema is worth one million euros per season for three years.

Average salaries are reportedly around 3,500 euros per month, although stars like Amandine Henry and Wendie Renard are believed to earn almost 10 times that at Lyon, who have won the Champions League in the last four years. Again, those sums are dwarfed by the wages often on offer to the men.

“We need to keep putting money in, keep professionalising, because other countries are doing it and maybe that's why they are ahead of us,” warned Lyon and France forward Eugenie Le Sommer.

“We have a good league but unfortunately not every team is professional.

“There are countries who are ahead of us and we must catch up. Even Spain are putting lots of money in and we need to make sure we are not left behind.”

READ ALSO: France coach laments 'failure' as hosts knocked out of World Cup

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