« I am the one who wanted to play, » Maëlle Lakrar from Montpellier puts an end to the controversy with the French team.

The MHSC and French team defender reflects on her first World Cup and upcoming events with the national team. She also discusses her club commitments. Unfortunately, she is currently injured but hopes to return by the end of the month.

Est-ce que l’élimination en quarts de finale de la Coupe du Monde, il y a un mois, contre l’Australie, a été acceptée ?

Yes, we need to move on. We would have liked to go further, like everyone else! Now, the championship begins; there are other goals with the French team: the Nations League first (the French team will be gathered for training starting Monday to prepare for France-Portugal in Valenciennes on September 22 and Austria-France in Vienna on the 26th, Editor’s note) and then the Olympics, so I think we need to quickly move on.
Est-ce que la date limite des Jeux Olympiques l’été prochain offre une opportunité de rebondir ?
D’avoir d’autres objectifs en tête, oui. De se dire qu’il ne faut pas baisser les bras. Il manquait des choses pour aller plus loin en Australie, il faut travailler dessus pour pouvoir avoir un trophée l’année prochaine.

Quelle a été votre expérience lors de la Coupe du Monde ?

For me, it was a first time experience. A childhood dream. I never thought I would go there! I was called for my first selection in the French team in February with Corinne Diacre and everything happened quickly.
Hervé Renard made me feel comfortable when he included me in the group, as did the other girls, and that’s what allowed me to take a step forward and immediately get into the competition. I didn’t think I would be a starter, so I tried to earn my place. The coach trusted me, and I was able to play in the two friendly matches and most of the World Cup games (rested in the third game against Morocco). They gave me the opportunity, and I believe I took it. I am grateful to them for that. I have been working towards this for years, so it is also a reward.

Is there a Renard method? The captain of the French team, Wendie Renard, highlighted the unity and human aspect she has brought to the group.

He operates on an emotional level, he takes care of the girls, he is attentive; it can be more complicated to approach a male coach but with him, it is very open. It also helped us to have Sabrina (Viguier) on the staff, to have a relationship between the two. She was often close to us, by our side, and we found it easier to approach Sabrina for certain things than the coach or the assistants; so it was nice to have this small change in the staff of the French team.

On the field, you formed the defensive duo with Renard for the Bleues. How did she lead you?

She is a girl who took me under her wing, who immediately made me feel confident in my first two selections with Corinne Diacre and then in the Tournoi de France where she knew how to talk to me, correct me during training. Honestly, playing alongside a girl like that, you can only feel confident. She gave me a lot of freedom on set pieces. I think I learned a lot from her during this World Cup.

Ressentez-vous également qu’un groupe a émergé, tout comme elle ?

I haven’t been in the French team for long, but we truly have a very close-knit group.
Even in the face of difficulty, we were present; there was understanding and it was evident on the field, there were many more smiles. It was a World Cup that passed quickly because we truly felt good within the group, with the staff, with everyone.

Did it make you grow?

From the preparatory stage onwards, I experienced a breakthrough because the level of difficulty was already very high. Mentally, one needs to be strong as you spend 55 days with the same people, always having a goal in mind. I believe I have grown a lot in terms of mental strength.
Dans le placement aussi avec Wendy et surtout dans la parole. Au début, j’avais du mal à guider les joueuses parce qu’elles étaient plus vieilles que moi et j’ai pris en assurance pour parler plus, derrière, ce qu’il faut à mon poste.
Technically as well. I still have room for improvement, a lot of things to learn. Why not score more goals with my club, like I have been able to do with the national team. To be more decisive on set pieces. The coach, Yannick Chandioux, sees me as a leader and I have to set an example, show the younger ones that hard work takes time, and that we must continue to work.

Laurent Nicollin (président du MHSC) a poussé un coup de gueule du fait que vous aviez joué diminué le quart de finale de la Coupe du monde ce qui avait aggravé votre blessure (lésion musculaire). Comment cela s’est décidé ?

I will not blame the coach, Hervé Renard, because it was my decision, I wanted to play. I could have said no. I wanted to play. What happened, happened, but I gave it my all, the coach trusted me, he kept me on the field for the full 120 minutes, I took my penalty, and it went well! Besides, it’s the World Cup, it only happens every four years. We’re not sure if we’ll make it to the next one! It was worth a try, and I have no regrets. I understand my president because I will miss some league matches, which penalizes my club. I am working hard to come back. I have been in training for a month, doing a lot of rehabilitation, and I am being well taken care of in Montpellier. I think I will be back soon.

Quelle est votre opinion sur l’équipe du MHSC alors que le championnat de D1 Arkema reprend ?

Il est plus difficile de se remettre d’une blessure car on se retrouve en dehors du groupe, mais malgré cela, l’entraîneur nous a fait participer aux matchs amicaux en déplacement. Même si c’est mentalement difficile de voir les filles jouer.
The group is doing well, you can feel it, this year, we can accomplish something.
L’objectif est de se qualifier pour la Ligue des champions.
Il le faut mais on est sûre de rien. Ça fait plusieurs années qu’on a ce discours mais c’est de plus en plus pertinent. Cette année, il y a une nouvelle formule de play-off, il faut donc être dans les quatre et puis après, sur un match, tout peut arriver. On va faire ce qu’on n’a pas su faire l’année dernière, c’est-à-dire gagner des points contre les équipes moins bien classées. Garder de la régularité. Et puis, continuer à tenir tête aux plus gros comme Fleury, PSG chez elles.

La réponse de Renard à Nicollin

If Maëlle Lakrar played injured at the Women’s World Cup with the French team, « everything was clear » between the defender and the coaching staff, stated Hervé Renard, the coach, on Friday, in response to the criticism from the president of her club, Montpellier. « I can understand the club and its president (Laurent Nicollin), who is highly respectable, I am sorry about that, but everything was clear between the player, the medical staff, and myself, » assured the technician. The president of Montpellier had criticized the management of Lakrar at the end of August, when she was selected as a starter in the quarter-finals.

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