The top-quality defenders of France’s most successful team are finally getting the recognition they deserve for their brilliance at the back, writes Martin Whiteley.Embed from Getty Images
Lyon’s attack tends to steal the show when the awards are handed out but this season their accomplished defenders have been enjoying their moment in the spotlight.
Captain Wendie Renard rounded off a successful week after making a record sixth appearance in the Women’s Fifa Fifpro World 11 by again showing her value to the OL at the weekend. The towering six-foot tall centre-back used her height advantage to help set up Griedge Mbock’s late winner as the Division 1 Feminine leaders secured a crucial 3-2 win at Montpellier on Saturday.
Renard’s aerial ability is certainly a major benefit for her team at both ends of the pitch. The partnership she has developed with Olympic gold medallist Kadeisha Buchanan has also made it impossible for France star Mbock, who can also operate in midfield, to claim back her starting defensive spot since returning from injury.Embed from Getty Images
There may have been a lot of discontent about the names in the recent World 11 team but Renard and team-mate Christiane Endler have earned their spots. The keeper helped PSG to claim their first league title after making her debut on the list in 2020 and has done all that’s been asked of her between the sticks in her first season with French giants Lyon.
Concentration is key as large portions of many games are played out at the other end of the pitch but, when called into action, Endler is ready to perform. The Chilean shot-stopper’s a commanding presence in her area and will look to take on more of a leadership role in the face of competition from the vastly experienced Sarah Bouhaddi, who’s back in their ranks after a loan spell with sister side OL Reign.
It’s not just the veterans who’re winning the recognition of their peers. Last August, it was a double awards swoop for right-back Ellie Carpenter that hit the headlines as the 21-year-old made history after becoming the first woman to be named Australian PFA Women’s Young Footballer of the Year and Footballer of the year.
Selma Bacha was the next player celebrating when she notched up back-to-back Division 1 Feminine Player of the Month gongs in October and November. The forwards might try and claim some of her success, though, as she did play further upfield a lot of the time as well as occupying the left-back birth.
Seven-times Champions League winners Lyon are fortunate to have such versatility, with former PSG star Perle Morroni also able to slip in seamlessly to the left side of the backline that’s kept 13 clean sheets so far this season, and two-time Golden Shoe winner Janice Cayman who can play further forward too.
Many leading teams have quality and quantity in the forward areas, but there can be a significant drop-off with the talent and numbers of accomplished personnel along the backline as well as between the sticks.
Mega-successful sides like Lyon know just how important it is to be as tight at the back as you are proficient in front of the opposition’s goal in key matches. Until more of their rivals recruit better defensively, you can expect the entire Lyon team to continue to get the chance to add to their many accolades for some time to come.
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