France and manager Corinne Diacre are happy as Euro 2022 begins vs. Italy, but will it last?

Azby-de-la-Zouch… or is it Achbee? As in? The most difficult thing for the French players since arriving in England on Monday for Women’s Euro 2022 has been trying to pronounce the name of the small village where they are staying for the duration of the tournament. The second part of it, “de-la-Zouch”, is simple and even sounds almost French, as if it were destiny. The first part is tricky though!

Either way, Ashby-de-la-Zouch is that little slice of paradise, though Les Bleues landed. It’s quiet, green, spacious and just what manager Corinne Diacre wanted for her players. If, like most people around the world, you don’t know where ADLZ is (to put it simply), it’s not far from Birmingham, and for now French lager is a happy lager!

– Stream LIVE: France v Italy, Euro 2022, 7/10, 3pm ET, ESPN+

Since Diacre started the job in 2017, the prevailing mood among French women has not always been the same. Tensions between the head coach and her players have run high since day one. But at the moment there are more smiles than grimaces at the French HQ, something Diacre had to prioritize in order to get into the Euros. How long this harmony will last remains to be seen, but the atmosphere is more harmonious than it has been for the past five years.

Diacre tries hard to change; she is more relaxed and less authoritarian. The long walks and discussions she shared last summer with her agent Jean-Pierre Bernès (who, incidentally, is also Didier Deschamps’ agent) have been very helpful. She had to understand that she needed to change to be successful in this role and the fact that she decided to return the captaincy to Wendie Renard (31 years old, 131 caps) illustrates her reform efforts. After taking it from the Lyon defender to impose her authority on the group, Diacre realized her mistake and her about-face was the right choice.

Diacre has also brushed aside the players she didn’t get along with or liked, like midfielder Amandine Henry or striker Eugenie Le Sommer, which also improves the mood. Now everyone pulls together.

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France have never progressed past the quarter-finals at a European Championship and that stage has been their pinnacle in major competitions for some time: the last time they went further was a decade ago when they finished fourth at the 2011 World Cup and fourth in next year at the Olympics But they are coming to the Euros after losing just one of their last 30 games since losing to USA at the 2019 World Cup in Paris. (Yes, that loss was a quarterfinal.)

In 2022 they have confidence and momentum. They have an outstanding striker in Marie-Antoinette Katoto and, at just 23, the PSG forward could become one of the tournament’s stars. They have a mix of youth and experience and wonderful individual talent (Sakina Kachraoui in defence, Grace Gyoro in midfield, Kadidiatou Diani and Delphine Cascarino up front) and to maximize that potential they need to form a happy, harmonious camp.

The French have not been in England for a week, but they already feel at home. “We have everything here to be happy here, it’s perfect,” one of the players told ESPN. They have a large entertainment room, which they nicely call the “living room” where they spend a lot of their time. There they watched England play Austria and were so impressed by the atmosphere at Old Trafford. They also followed Germany’s 4-0 win over Denmark and cheered for Sara Dabritz: some of the girls played with her at PSG last season and she will be a new teammate for some others when she moves to Lyon after Euro!

The crew also makes use of the other entertainment options: video games, table tennis tournaments and a pool table are available, but the biggest attraction so far is undoubtedly the basketball arcade game. They hear screams, laughter, arguments and jokes all the time as they try to beat each other’s high scores! PSG midfielder Gyoro claims she is the best and while many team-mates disagree, of course the friendlies help build that team spirit.

You can also find large framed photos of the team throughout the camp: Les Bleues are everywhere. On the door of each player’s bedroom, all spacious and comfortable, is the player’s name and photo. Each game room has a bed, a desk, a large bathroom and a wardrobe. Some, like defender Eve Perisset, have brought some of their schoolwork with them: the future Chelsea defender is training to be a real estate agent and needs to study! There are also popular rooms – some players love hanging out in Katoto’s room, listening to music or just talking – but this feels a lot like a united team. At least for now.

Sunday’s first group game against Italy in Rotherham must confirm all the good vibes that came out of the French camp in the early days of their time in England. Otherwise, the ghosts of the past could very quickly return to haunt France and dampen their ambitions. France and manager Corinne Diacre are happy as Euro 2022 begins vs. Italy, but will it last?

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