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2019 Women's World Cup team previews: France

No country has ever held simultaneous men's and women's World Cup championships, but France, which is hosting this year's women's event, has a chance to pull it off. Les Bleus are currently fourth in FIFA's world rankings, and talentwise, few teams can keep up with the home team.

How they got here

France is in the tournament as a result of hosting the World Cup. The team made the quarterfinals in 2015 and came in fourth in 2011.

Strengths/weaknesses

Experience is a Catch-22 for France, both a harbinger of recent success and the proverbial Sisyphean boulder. The team has advanced to the quarterfinals or further in every major tournament since 2009 but hasn't finished higher than fourth. The expectation has long been for more. Captain Amandine Henry, two-time FIFA FIFPro World XI members midfielder Eugénie Le Sommer and defender Wendie Renard are 28 or older. With coach Corinne Diacre -- the first woman to coach a professional men's team -- at the helm, replacing Olivier Echouafni in August 2017, there's not going to be a more opportune time for France to claim hardware.

Money stat: 73

That's how many goals Le Sommer has notched, good for second all-time for France. She might not become France's leader this summer -- Marinette Pichon tallied 81 before retiring in 2006 -- but the 30-year-old will soon don the crown.

Players to watch

Few players have the impact that two-time UEFA Women's Player of the Year runner-up Amandine Henry does, on or off the ball. The Scholesian Henry is among the world's best distributors from the central midfield, with the most passes into the attacking third of all players over France's past three major tournaments. Stonewall Sarah Bouhaddi has won three consecutive IFFHS World's Best Woman Goalkeeper awards at Lyon.

Key game

Containing former PFA Player of the Year and South Korea's all-time leading scorer Ji So-yun on June 7 will be a defensive challenge for France. The Chelsea midfielder has proved her mettle in England, winning two FA Cups and Women's Super League titles in the past five years. And there's revenge on the line: France upended South Korea in the round of 16 in Montreal four years ago.

Local feedback

"I've dreamed about winning the World Cup since I was tiny. The highest level is unforgiving, and at times in the big tournaments we've lacked ferocity in front of the net, we've lacked efficiency, and sometimes we haven't had luck. When that happens, it's because you're missing something. In the 2016 Olympic [quarterfinals], when we played Canada, we had so many chances and to get scored on ... it's cruel. To get back up, you have to be tough. We have to win a medal or the title [at the World Cup]." -- Wendie Renard to ESPN's Bonnie Ford

Prediction

If both France and the United States win their respective groups and get through the round of 16, a quarterfinal matchup looms. The reigning champion U.S. hasn't been lower than second in the FIFA rankings in the past decade, and despite France's behemoth squad, it's the United States' tournament to lose.

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