|espnW.com: News & Opinion|
MONCHENGLADBACH, Germany -- Despite the outcome of Wednesday's semifinal between France and the United States, one thing is for certain: France is for real.
Despite its No. 7 ranking, few had seen much of the French team before the tournament, and it was thought to be outmatched in the so-called Group of Death by No. 2 Germany and No. 6 Canada. The 4-0 thrashing of Canada immediately made the French a favorite to go far in the tournament, and a dramatic penalty kick win over England in the quarterfinals put them up against the United States in the semifinal.
For long stretches in Wednesday's 3-1 loss to the U.S., the French dominated the game. They outshot the United States 25-11 and forced Hope Solo to make several key saves, and defender Sonia Bompastor even pinged a shot off the crossbar. Their dominating play was a sight to behold.
"I hope fans like the way we play," French midfielder Camille Abily said after the match.
France now faces Sweden in Saturday's third-place game in Sinsheim, and it's a game the team is focused on winning. In its first World Cup in 2003, France went 1-1-1 but didn't advance out of its group.
"We want to win that game. We don't want to go home losing," Abily said.
"When you can touch the final and you don't reach it, it's hard," said Bompastor, who scored France's only goal against the U.S. "At the same time, it's the first time we are qualified for the semifinal. We have the  Olympic Games. That's a great result."
By virtue of finishing among the top two European teams -- along with Sweden -- in this World Cup, France has qualified for the Olympics next year in London. It will be the first Olympic appearance for the French, and they are hoping to keep the momentum going.
The team hoped its performance would help grow the game in its country.
"If we have provoked something through the quality of our game [and] we have achieved something in France where parents will say, 'Oh, football is something for girls as well, and now I'm going to make my girl play football as well,' that will be a good effect," French coach Bruno Bini said through a translator after the semifinal loss.
France is a team on the rise. Its top club team, Olympique Lyon, recently won the women's Champions League final over Germany's Turbine Potsdam. Ten players from that Lyon team also play for the national team, so they have been able to gain a lot of experience at top-level soccer. France has scored nine goals from seven players in this World Cup, trailing only the United States (11 goals) and Japan (10).
Bompastor and Abily also credited their play in Women's Professional Soccer in 2009 and 2010 for giving them the confidence to go against the U.S. The French team had not played the U.S. since 2006, so Bompastor and Abily had seen the most of the American team that took the field Wednesday.
"Before I went [to WPS] we were a little bit scared. We said, 'Oh, the U.S. [is] very good and strong.' After [we played] with them, we knew, Sonia and me, we could win against them," Abily said. "We knew -- it was hard -- but we can compete with them. We are not far from them."
The French might have another chance to turn the result in their favor next year in London.