AP

France captain Renard pulls out of World Cup, others follow

Feb 23, 2023, 8:00 PM | Updated: Feb 24, 2023, 1:37 pm

PARIS (AP) — France captain Wendie Renard says she will skip the Women’s World Cup this year as she’s unhappy with the team’s set up and needs “to protect her mental health.”

Renard is arguably France’s greatest women’s footballer. She has played 142 internationals, adding 34 goals. Renard has won 15 league titles and eight Champions League trophies with Lyon.

Following Renard’s decision on Friday, striker Marie-Antoinette Katoto and forward Kadidiatou Diani also announced they were putting their international careers on hold.

Although Renard stopped short of retiring, she said she no longer felt able to play for the national team.

“I love France more than anything, I am not perfect, far from it, but I can no longer accept the current system which is far away from the demands required at the highest level,” Renard wrote on her Instagram page.

“It’s a sad day but a necessary one to protect my mental health. It’s with a heavy heart that, with this message, I inform you of my decision to take a step back from the France team. Unfortunately I won’t play in the World Cup under these conditions.”

Renard did not go further into detail, but there have been strong tensions in the France squad for years between the players and coach Corinne Diacre.

After taking charge in 2017, Diacre stripped Renard of the captain’s armband then gave it back to her in 2021.

Katoto posted on Twitter, “I’ve taken the decision to put my international career aside until the necessary changes have been made.”

Diani said on Twitter she will return to the national side only if significant changes are made.

The French soccer players’ union, known as UNFP, called the three players “extremely brave” for speaking out, and implored the French Football Federation to implement necessary changes.

“This cry of alarm must serve as a catalyst, and push the parties concerned to consider the concrete consequences of how far we’ve fallen behind over the years,” the UNFP said in a statement.

The Women’s World Cup is from July 20-Aug. 20 in Australia and New Zealand.

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