(Soccer America continues its countdown to the 2015 Women's World Cup with the 13th of 20 profiles of the women to watch in Canada.)
Women's soccer has benefited from growing acceptance in France, where clubs like Lyon and
Paris St. Germain have pumped big money into their women's programs. The French government lobbied aggressively to win the right to host the 2019 Women's World Cup.
A key to the national team's development has been women's soccer's increasing acceptance within the French immigrant population that produced so many of the French men's stars. Kenza Dali was born to parents who were Algerian immigrants. Marie-Laure Delie is the daughter of immigrants from Ivory Coast,
while Kadidiatou Diani was born in Paris to parents who hail from Mali.
Louisa Necib's path to stardom followed that of another child of Algerian immigrants, Zinedine Zidane. Like Zizou, Necib she
grew up in the streets in the Nord section of Marseilles, where she played with boys. Her parents preferred that she continue with gymnastics -- viewed as a girls sport -- but they finally accepted
that soccer was her passion and gave the OK for her to stop gymnastics at the age of 14 and sign with her first soccer club in Marseilles.
"I was often compared to him when I was young," said Necib of Zidane in an interview with Le Parisien. "It makes me proud because he was my idol,
but there is no one like Zizou."
Necib moved to INF Clairefontaine -- the pioneering French
academy at the headquarters of the French federation -- at the age of 17, then on to Montpellier at the age of 19 and joined Lyon a year later.
At 28, Necib may be the best playmaker in the world. Just how critical she is to the Bleues was evident at the Algarve Cup, which she missed because after rupturing the plantar fascia in
her left foot in their 2-0 win over the USA in February. Without Necib, France fell by the same score in the Algarve Cup final to the USA.
France's Women's World Cup hopes received a
boost on Friday when Necib played her first game for the Bleues in a 2-1 win over Russia in a friendly.