France team – Euro 2022 preparation: Charlotte Bilbault, midfielder without fear but not without reproach

Last Friday, in Beauvais, Les Bleues are preparing to start their preparation match for the Euro against Cameroon (4-0). Before the kick-off is given, the 11 holders gather in a circle in the middle of the tricolor half of the field, to listen to a player, armband on her arm: Charlotte Bilbault. We do not know what the midfielder says to her partners, but they nod in turn, a sign that the message from the 32-year-old Habs is infusing.

A sign, too, that Bilbault has made a full place for himself over the years in this French team where, for a long time, few would have bet on seeing her line up so many selections (44). Unlike Louisa Necib, Camille Abily, Gaetane Thiney or Amandine Henry, her glorious predecessors in the French midfield, she is less known to the general public, who could only see her 98 minutes (a tenure plus an entry into game, in the group stage), during the World Cup at home in 2019. Bilbault, it is not the player from whom we will ask the most for an autograph, or the one we will hear the most in the media.

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Melvine Malard (right) alongside Charlotte Bilbault.

Credit: Getty Images

Amandine Henry, she was one of the best players in the world at one time, so obviously it’s very difficult to compare, regardless of the player who will play in her place

This sometimes explains the criticisms that may be aimed at her, among the followers of the troop of Corinne Deacon, who will face Vietnam this Friday (9:10 p.m., to follow on Eurosport), at the Stade de la Source in Orléans. Because filling the void left by Amandine Henry, excluded at the end of 2020 from the team with the rooster coat of arms, due to disputes between the Lyonnaises and her coach, is not an easy task. And since she took over the position of the girl with 13 French championship titles and 7 Champions League with OL, she has not escaped comparisons, and spades.

A situation that saddens Camille Abily: “Already, she has nothing to do with it”poses the former innkeeper of the Blue, now assistant coach at the Fenottes. “It’s not easy to be in her place because she’s a real soldier, a player who gives everything, who has a lot of energy. Now, Amandine Henry, she was one of the best players in the world at a time, so obviously it’s very difficult to compare, regardless of the player who will play in her place. It’s like when, before, we wanted to compare certain players to Louisa Necib “.

“Snarling” on the ground, Charlotte Bilbault is also described as “a good-natured girl, who likes to joke and laugh”, by Eve Perisset

Credit: Getty Images

“What is certain is that Amandine Henry is a very good player with a lot of experience, and we know her talentadds Yannick Chandioux, who is delighted to train, next season, Charlotte Bilbault, who signed in Montpellier a few weeks before the start of the Euro. After Henry is a good or great player doesn’t stop Charlotte from being a good and great player either. I think this is a non-issue. Maybe the two could have played together in a 4-2-3-1 in the France team, but it’s a choice of Corinne (Deacon)”.

Everyone has different opinions and choices, the most important thing is to share. The image of the France team is the most important

Because the coach, by depriving herself of the former Portland Thorns player, indirectly put pressure on her replacement, to whom she also entrusted the armband for almost a year, before giving it back to Wendie Renard in September 2021 Which does not prevent the number 14 of the France team from taking it back, when the defender is not on the ground, like last Friday. In a very heavy post-World Cup atmosphere, enamelled with many tensions, Bilbault first had to work to bring some serenity to a group marked by a competition far from its ambitions: “I finished with the armband, I’m very happy with it. I don’t have a position to have, I’m just a player for the France team. I was called by the staff. My job is is to bring what I know how to do on the field. Everyone has different opinions and choices, the most important thing is to exchange. The image of the French team is the most important “she recalled shortly after taking power in the midfield, at the end of 2020.

It must be said that, according to all the interlocutors interviewed, this unifying role seems to suit her perfectly. “He’s someone who doesn’t give up, who is aggressive and who always responds in duels.describes Eve Perisset, right side of the Bleues, holder with Bilbault during the match against the Indomitable Lionesses. If we have to go to war with her, we know we can go, she will always be with us by our side”continues the new Chelsea player, who also speaks, off the field, of a “good lively girl, who likes to joke and laugh”.

Charlotte Bilbault with the France team jersey – February 2022

Credit: Getty Images

“A winner, for sure, a competitor, yes, with this desire to win and to pull the group with her, that’s what emerges first”adds Yannick Chandioux, who adds, when asked why he wanted to bring her to the MHSC: “I find that she is a very interesting player in relation to her athletic profile and her volume of play in the middle. Her character also interests me, I need character in my team and that, she will really help us. to bring”.

Abily, who was able to meet her at Clairefontaine, when, then already well established in the France group, she saw Bilbault arrive there in 2015, also talks about her side of“a girl with character who, like on the pitch, doesn’t let herself be pushed around. That’s why it’s not easy to be in her place, because the absence of Amandine Henry has caused a lot of talk , and when you play at your position it’s not easy”. Eve Perisset agrees with the words of the one who will officiate as a consultant for TF1 during the competition: “It’s difficult, when you’re a player, to be compared to another all the time. Amandine and Charlotte have two different profiles, so it’s hard to compare the two, each has their qualities”.

And when some point to her lack of experience at the highest level, especially in the Champions League where Henry shone again this year in the final with a fantastic goal, Perisset, Bilbault’s former teammate for two seasons, in Bordeaux, which they had succeeded to climb to third place in the championship in 2021, still disapproves: “Charlotte, she has been in the selection for a few years so she also has experience”.

“I know that she has confidence and that she will give everything. She is very generous in the effort, she has different qualities and that is Corinne’s choice”, tempers Abily, 183 capes in Blue. A choice that Deacon has always assumed, she who has made it one of her centerpieces, both in the group, therefore, and on the field, where she has established the former Juvisy in 10 of the last 12 matches of the teammates of Marie Antoinette Katoto. Bilbault has only missed one rally since September 2019. It was in April 2021, due to a knee injury that forced her to have surgery.

She is eager to show that she has the level, quite simply. And when you’re a high-level athlete, it’s part of the job, you have to answer

Bilbault also suffers from a much lower performance than Henry in front of goal. With only one achievement in her career in A, she has 12 units less than the Lyonnaise, who has honored, however, 49 more selections. For the Barangeonnaise, this Euro, and the possibility of finally making France cross the milestone of the quarter-finals, more reached since the London Olympics in 2012, can therefore sound like revenge. “She can’t wait to show that she has the level, quite simplyassures Camille Abily. And when you’re a high-level athlete, it’s part of the job, you have to respond. We often said that we were world champion in friendlies, but in official matches we failed to do so, so I hope this generation will do it this summer.”.

“What she gives off is interesting for the group and for the team. She will certainly be of service to the French team in a few weeks and that’s really a good thing, wants to believe on his side Yannick Chandioux. And I think her career is far from over despite being in her thirties.”. Freed, finally, from the weight of expectations and the criticisms that overwhelm her? Answer this summer.

Charlotte Bilbault is often praised for her volume of play in midfield

Credit: Getty Images


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