Auxerre (France) (AFP) – In a heavyweight warm-up match for this summer’s Women’s World Cup, hosts France take on Japan, champions in 2011 and losing finalists four years ago, in Auxerre on Thursday.
After playing Japan, France face Denmark in Strasbourg on Monday. Coach Corinne Diacre said the opponents were chosen because “they have styles similar” to Norway and South Korea, two of the teams France will face in their group. Nigeria are the fourth team in the pool.
Japan are in a group with England, Scotland and Argentina.
France are ranked fourth in the world by FIFA. Japan are seventh.
Japan “are a big team, which is one of the best in women’s football,” said striker Eugenie Le Sommer.
“It will be a difficult match but it will allow us to take on the best to prepare ourselves for the World Cup.”
The Lyon star, who has scored 73 goals in 157 international appearances, missed France’s last match, a 1-0 loss to second-ranked Germany in March.
On her return, Le Sommer will face long-time Lyon team-mate Saki Kumagai, a defender who has won a century of caps.
Japan were surprise winners of the 2011 World Cup.
“It was a miracle,” that team’s captain Aya Miyama told the FIFA website on Monday.
Japan then took silver at the 2012 London Olympics and reached the World Cup final again in 2015 to confirm their place among the elite.
“World Cups are never easy,” Miyama said. “But this team has more confidence in themselves, and I think they have a really good chance to win.”
Nations must name a provisional squad of up to 50 players by April 26. That must be winnowed down to 23 at a later date that has not yet been fixed. France kick off the competition against South Korea on June 7 in Paris.
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