France coach Herve Renard is confident playing against “an entire nation” will bring out the best in his team when they face Australia in the quarter-finals of the Women’s World Cup in Brisbane on Saturday.
Les Bleues eased into the last eight with a 4-0 win over Morocco but must now overcome a hostile 50,000 crowd when they take on the co-hosts with a place in the semi-finals up for grabs.
“We love that. This is why we do this job. It is the beauty of football,” Renard told reporters on the eve of the game.
“The Australian people deserve to be congratulated for making this such a success.
“It has been a fantastic tournament. We are playing in beautiful stadiums that are always full.
“We know we are not just playing against one team but against an entire nation. But it just gives us extra motivation. We prefer this to playing a friendly in front of 100 people.”
France lost 1-0 to the Matildas in a friendly in Melbourne a week before the World Cup began, in front of a crowd of just over 50,000.
Days later, Australia lost skipper Sam Kerr to a calf injury that led to her missing the entire group stage.
The Chelsea forward made her comeback off the bench late on in the 2-0 win over Denmark in the last 16 and could now play a greater role against France.
“I know all the Australian players. Knowing if she is going to play or not is not my worry,” Renard said, playing down the significance of Kerr’s return.
“Their attacking players already work well together. It is a good problem for them to have. But I wouldn’t swap any of my attackers for theirs.
“Even if she is on the field it will not change the way Australia play.”
While Australia are bidding to get to the last four for the first time, a win for France will see them match their best performance at a Women’s World Cup, which remains their run to the semi-finals in Germany in 2011.
They also lost in the semi-finals at last year’s Euros.
“We have been one of the best teams in the world for a long time, but we have still not won anything, not a single medal,” said Eugenie Le Sommer, France’s all-time record scorer with 92 goals.
“We want to take something back to our country, do great things.
“Our situation is not the same as Australia. We have already been in the last four, but this is definitely one of the most important matches in our history.”