France captain Amandine Henry said it is “every player’s dream” to lead their country on home soil ahead of the start of the Women’s World Cup.
Henry, 29, has missed the last two friendly matches for France in the buildup to the tournament with a back injury, but expects to be fit for the opener against South Korea at the Parc des Princes in Paris after training with the squad on Tuesday at Clairefontaine.
The news will be welcome for France manager Corinne Diacre as Henry is an indispensable member of the team and her return will be a big boost.
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Henry told ESPN in an exclusive interview: “This is what every player dream of, being the captain of your country in a World Cup on home soil. I have dreamed of it and it will become reality. It means so much to me and to my family. Representing your country is always very special, even more during a World Cup.”
Diacre received more good news on Monday evening after another key player Eugenie Le Sommer trained normally following a muscle injury on the back of a season with Women’s Champions League winners Lyon in which she showed stellar form.
Le Sommer and Henry are teammates at Lyon, and the latter said that she has been thinking about the Women’s World Cup obsessively ever since they lost to Germany on penalties in the quarterfinals in Canada in 2015.
“You become a bit obsessed with the World Cup. It is so big, so exciting,” Henry said. “You can’t wait to get started and play in it. You count the days and it feels long and quick at the same time.
“We have lacked experience in the previous tournaments, especially the last World Cup. It was a discovery for a lot of us. It hurt so much to lose to Germany but we have learned a lot from it. We certainly don’t want to go through it again this time around.
“We will know how to deal with the pressure, the expectations and use the fact that we play at home as a great advantage.”
Henry said she feels “lucky” to be part of a special generation of France players and thinks this is their time to shine on the international scene.
“I am lucky to be part of a great generation with players like Eugenie, Wendy [Renard], Sarah [Bouhaddi],” Henry added. “There is a lot of talent in this squad, with a great, rigorous and experienced coach in Corinne Diacre. We are more mature than four years ago, stronger as well individually and as a team.
“We have a lot of confidence and momentum too. We are all aware of the impact that winning this World Cup would have on women’s football in France. It would be incredible and after watching the men winning it last summer, we want to do the same.”
Henry knows there will be a few obstacles along the way with South Korea, Norway and Nigeria the opponents in the group stage, a potential match with defending champions the United States in the quarterfinals to advance past the stage they exited in 2015.
“We are not getting carried away but we don’t fear anyone. I know the Americans very well because I played for Portland,” Henry said. “They are very strong like the Germans, the English or the Brazilians but we believe in ourselves too. I feel the competition is quite open this year. We will give everything we have to achieve our dream.
“I saw [France goalkeeper] Hugo Lloris lifting the [World Cup] trophy last summer in Moscow. I want to have that feeling too.”