Blues have evolved into Euro challengers under Soubeyrand but now she has to build a team capable of competing with the best, writes Martin Whiteley.
Paris FC may be no strangers to reinvention, but coach Sandrine Soubeyrand faces her greatest challenge yet — transforming her side into a team capable of holding their own in the Champions League.
When it was confirmed that the Blues were back in Europe after rivals Fleury 91 slumped to defeat by Lyon yesterday, it was the culmination of a five-year plan to return to football’s top table.
During the club’s earlier incarnation, Juvisy reached the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2013 when Soubeyrand was still anchoring the midfield in what would be her penultimate playing season before going into management.
Paris FC’s purchase of Juvisy three years later, along with the addition of a third European spot, has changed their identity in more ways than one. It’s given them the opportunity to blossom from being a successful amateur side into one that’s able to compete with the top professional clubs in the modern game.
Now Soubeyrand, who has overseen their impressive rise since taking charge in 2018, is preparing to reinvent the team once more.
She told the club’s website: “It’s the fruit of three seasons of work within Paris FC. It reflects the commitment of an entire club. It rewards the work of the players and the staff. When I signed at the end of 2018, that was one of the objectives. I lived this adventure as a player, it will be the first as a coach.
“The Champions League is international. We will have to reinvent ourselves with the staff. It will be challenging. It’s been a fabulous season with almost no missteps. We know that every season 10 teams fight for the third because the first two are almost impregnable. I am proud of all the work done.”
Two things had to happen to ensure the side from the suburb of the French capital would have European football on the horizon after the weekend’s fixtures. Firstly, they had to defeat Montpellier in the opening game of matchday 19 on Friday, and secondly, fourth-placed Fleury 91 then had to lose on home soil against leaders Lyon in the final match of the round yesterday.
Paris FC had virtually locked up their part of the equation before the interval as they scored three goals without reply. Two goals in a minute from Clara Mateo and Ouleymata Sarr midway through the first half put the hosts in control.
Their third came in the 41st minute, although it was not without a slice of good fortune. A penalty from captain Gaetane Thiney hit the woodwork and eventually managed to roll over the line after striking the back of goalkeeper Lisa Schmitz. Sub Nerilia Mondesir hit a consolation for the visitors as they lost 3-1.
Paris FC then faced an anxious two-day wait until the Sunday for the second part of the proceedings to unfold. Rosemonde Kouassi ramped up the tension as she burst away to give Fleury the lead after 36 minutes.
By the hour mark, those with Paris FC connections were breathing a little easier as Lyon turned things around to lead 2-1. Goalkeeper Katriina Talaslahti will not be happy with her part in either of them.
First, she let a looping ball from near the corner flag by Delphine Cascarino evade her grasp at the back post to allow the leaders to hit back immediately and then a vicious in-swinging corner from Catarina Macario also got the better of the former Lyon star.
The win moved the visitors onto 55 points at the top of the table and put them five points in front of second-placed PSG with three league games remaining.
While for Paris FC, who’re currently on 44 points and 10 clear of Fleury, trips to foreign lands may have been a regular occurrence under their former guise of Juvisy, a new format awaits them next season.
From their starting point, two qualifying rounds will need to be negotiated before reaching the group stage. Coming out of the league path means that there is still the possibility of facing one of the powerhouse runners-up from England, Germany, or Spain.
Bordeaux, who finished third in France last season, were drawn against Wolfsburg for a place in the group stage, and it became a bridge too far.
The balance for coach Soubeyrand and the club will be deciding if more quality additions are needed to navigate the early rounds. A number of the current Paris FC squad, including top scorer Mateo, are contracted beyond this season but new players have to fit into their budget.
The purchase of Juvisy by Paris FC was not just to provide them with the professional status they needed to compete domestically but an opportunity to return to Europe. With solid organisation, these plans have now become a reality.
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