Sports

France coach Corinne Diacre said Wednesday she is the victim of a smear campaign as she faces opposition from several players amid reports she could be replaced before the Women’s World Cup.

In a statement from her lawyer to The Associated Press, Diacre said she has been shocked by the “violence” and “dishonesty” of what she perceives as an attempt to destabilise her.

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Last month, France captain Wendie Renard said she will skip this year’s Women’s World Cup because she is unhappy with the team’s setup. Following Renard’s decision, striker Marie-Antoinette Katoto and forward Kadidiatou Diani also announced they were putting their international careers on hold.

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

Diani said she would return to the national team only if significant changes are made.

But Diacre said she is determined to remain in charge and to “bring honor to France during the next World Cup.”

“I endured, not without great suffering, the display of slander, untruths and ambitions of some and others,” Diacre said.

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

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

– Lawson: Infighting of Women’s WC favourites reveals big issues

“My detractors have not hesitated to attack my personal and professional integrity without bothering with the truth,” Diacre said. “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 said she has been heard by a commission from the French football federation and thanked its members for allowing her “to dispel the lies that were asserted without contradiction.”

She also thanked Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas, who previously urged the federation’s executive committee to listen to the players. Aulas is a member of the committee.

Diacre said Aulas assured her that he was “ready to go back on his public remarks by considering the the situation with objectivity and impartiality.”

“In view of the shameful media outburst of the last few days, I nevertheless wish to reaffirm publicly what I told the commission,” Diacre said. “That I am fully committed to carry out my mission and, above all, to do France proud during the next World Cup.”

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