France head coach Corinne Diacre has declared she intends to remain in charge of Les Bleues at the 2023 Women’s World Cup, despite mounting pressure following the decision of star players Wendie Renard, Kadidiatou Diani and Marie-Antoinette Katoto to withdraw from selection.

Renard, who stripped of the captaincy by Diacre in 2017, revealed last month her decision to step back from the France setup until changes are made to the ‘current system’. RMC later reported she will not play for her country again for as long as Diacre remains in charge.

Renard said she “can no longer endorse the current system, far from the requirements required by the highest level. It is a sad but necessary day to preserve my mental health. It is with a heavy heart that I write this message to inform you of my decision to take a step back from the French team. Unfortunately, I will not play in this World Cup in such conditions.”

Diani and Katoto soon made similar announcements, with the former stating: “In view of recent results and the management of the French team, I have decided that I will stop playing for my international team in order to focus on my club career…if the necessary changes finally happen, I will resume playing for the tricolour jersey.”

Katoto, who has scored 137 goals in the last five seasons at club level for Paris Saint-Germain prior to suffering an ACL injury at Euro 2022, explained, “I am no longer in line with the management of the France team nor the values it promotes.”

Now, in a statement issued to AFP, Diacre, herself a former France international with over 100 caps and a veteran of four major tournaments, has described the stance taken by the trio of senior players as a ‘destabilisation operation’.

“In view of the shameful media outburst of recent days, I nevertheless wish to publicly reaffirm that I am fully determined to carry out my mission and, above all, to honour France at the next World Cup,” the coach added, also alleging the personal ‘settling of scores’.

“My detractors have not hesitated to attack my personal and professional integrity without bothering with the truth. I will not let myself be affected by this destabilisation operation, which does not take into account my sporting record, and whose only objective is a personal settling of scores.”

Diacre’s list of past controversies is lengthy. Having fallen out with Renard in 2017 and handing the captaincy to Amandine Henry, a spat with Henry in 2021 led to the armband going back to Renard. Diacre also apologised to Eugenie Le Sommer in 2019 after being publicly critical of the player, while Gaetene Thiney spoke out against her coaching methods in 2020.

Veteran goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi retired from international football indefinitely in July of 2020, citing a ‘very, very negative environment’ and refusing a call-up two months later.

France were seen to underperform at the World Cup on home soil in 2019, with Henry stating in late 2021: “I saw girls crying in their room, I personally happened to cry in my room, because I wanted to experience this World Cup, but it was total chaos.” She also accused Diacre of dropping as punishment for approaching then French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet over issues.

Diacre has already spoken before an FFF committee and it has been reported that her future and that of the national team could be decided during a meeting at the federation on Thursday. The 48-year-old also thanked that committee for letting her ‘dispel lies that were asserted without contradiction’.

France are due to play their opening World Cup game against Jamaica on 23 July.

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