The appointment of Herve Renard as the new France women's head coach has been met with a mixture of surprise, relief and optimism. The 54-year-old Frenchman, who has never previously managed a women's team, is best known for his exploits in African, having won the Africa Cup of Nations twice with Zambia and Ivory Coast. Renard also led Saudi Arabia at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, where they surprised the world with a historic victory over Argentina. Having resigned after the tournament, Renard has set his sights on this new challenge.
Renard replaces Corinne Diacre, who was sacked earlier this month after a long-running feud with some of the key players in the squad. Diacre, who had been in charge since 2017, had overseen a disappointing quarter-final exit at the 2019 World Cup on home soil, followed by a lacklustre qualifying campaign for this year's edition. The final straw came when captain Wendie Renard, along with Kadidiatou Diani and Marie-Antoinette Katoto, announced their withdrawal from the national team, citing irreconcilable differences with the coach.
🗣️"My face may mask the pain but my heart is suffering."
Three France team stars including captain Wendie Renard, Kadidiatou Diani and Marie-Antoinette Oda Katoto have allegedly had a falling out with coach Corinne Diacre, five months before the World Cup.
(Source: AFP) pic.twitter.com/6SWLljY4cG
— DW Sports (@dw_sports) February 27, 2023
The crisis prompted the intervention of Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas, who is also in charge of women's football at the French Football Federation (FFF). Aulas, who has been instrumental in building Lyon into a dominant force in European women's football, led a committee to select a new coach, with the help of Strasbourg president Marc Keller, FFF treasurer Aline Riera and FFF secretary general Laura Georges. The committee considered several candidates, including former France men's coach Didier Deschamps and former England women's coach Phil Neville, but settled on Renard as their preferred choice.
Renard, who has signed a two-year contract with an option for another two years, has accepted a significant pay cut to take on the role. He will earn around €500,000 per year, compared to the €3m he was earning with Saudi Arabia. He will also have to adapt to a different culture and environment, having spent most of his managerial career outside Europe. He will be assisted by Eric Blahic, who was Diacre's former deputy and has agreed to return after leaving in 2020.
Having been the coach of National team of Saudi Arabia is a great pride for me. Since August 2019, I had the chance to be an integral part of the life of this beautiful country. I have seen this team grow alongside me and achieve a fabulous World Cup
— Hervé Renard (@Herve_Renard_HR) March 28, 2023
Renard's main task will be to unify a talented but divided squad, and to restore their confidence and ambition ahead of the World Cup, which kicks off in July. France are ranked fifth in the world and have some of the best players in their positions, such as Renard, Diani, Katoto, Amandine Henry and Eugenie Le Sommer. However, they have also struggled to perform consistently on the big stage, having never reached the final of a major tournament.
France will play Ireland in a friendly ahead of both teams travelling to Australia for the World Cup.