Women's World Cup: French coach defends decision to omit young star

In a prime-time announcement on France's top network TF1 that drew 5 million viewers, France coach Corinne Diacre unveiled her squad for the Women's World Cup.

The host team will feature seven players from Lyon, which is seeking its fourth straight UEFA Women's Champions League title when it plays Barcelona in the final May 18 in Budapest.

Many players from the exciting team that played in the 2011 and 2015 Women's World Cups have retired, but the Bleues still have plenty of stars, including the Lyon trio of Wendie Renard, Amandine Henry and Eugenie Le Sommer.

The most controversial decision was to omit high-scoring Paris St. Germain forward Marie-Antoinette Katoto, who leads the French women's league with 22 goals in 19 games. After Diacre publicly criticized her training habits before the France-USA game in Le Havre in January, Katoto came on as a sub and scored the third goal in the Bleues' 3-1 win that ended the USA's unbeaten streak dating back to August 2017.

Diacre said Katoto has enormous potential but her disappointing showings in big competitions -- the 2018 U-20 Women's World Cup hosted by France and PSG's 2019 UEFA Women's Champions League quarterfinal series against Chelsea -- hurt her cause. Diacre's public criticism of Katoto earlier in the year, though, did not sit well with some players.

Asked if Katoto's omission was going to impact the team, Diacre said, "The 23 players who were picked are rather happy. There are choices to be made, choices that are mine to make. The players want to be world champions. They have to be on the same page. A player who doesn't agree can come see me and say to me what doesn't suit her and give up her spot on the team if that's the case."

Diacre, who previously coached in Ligue 2, the men's second division, said the target set by French federation president Noel Le Graet when he hired her was to reach the final. Asked about the unprecedented media coverage of the women's team, Diacre said it was nice but shouldn't distract from the goal of winning the tournament.

France Roster:
GOALKEEPERS: Sarah Bouhaddi (Lyon), Solene Durand (Guingamp), Pauline Peyraud-Magnin (Arsenal/ENG).
DEFENDERS: Julie Debever (Guingamp), Sakina Karchaoui (Montpellier), Amel Majri (Lyon), Griedge Mbock Bathy (Lyon), Eve Perisset (Paris SG), Wendie Renard (Lyon), Marion Torrent (Montpellier), Aïssatou Tounkara (Atletico Madrid/ESP).
MIDFIELDERS: Charlotte Bilbault (Paris FC), Elise Bussaglia (Dijon), Maeva Clemaron (FC Fleury), Grace Geyoro (Paris SG), Amandine Henry (Lyon), Gaetane Thiney (Paris FC).
FORWARDS:  Viviane Asseyi (Bordeaux), Delphine Cascarino (Lyon), Kadidiatou Diani (Paris SG), Valerie Gauvin (Montpellier), Emelyne Laurent (Guingamp), Eugenie Le Sommer (Lyon).

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