"I have fought for the blue, white and red jersey 142 times with passion, respect, commitment and professionalism. I love France more than anything … but I can no longer support the current system which is far from meeting the requirements of the top level. It is a sad day but it's necessary for my mental health."
Those were the damning words of France captain Wendie Renard on social media last week as the defender announced her withdrawal from the French national team just months ahead of the World Cup, accompanied by two teammates.
"I no longer share the values conveyed by the team's management," said forward Marie-Antoinette Katoto, while fellow attacker Kadidiatou Diani said she would be prepared to return to the team once "necessary, far-reaching changes" have been made.
Corinne Diacre under pressure
Although neither Renard, Katato nor Diani mentioned her by name, it was clear who the criticism was aimed at: Corinne Diacre, the authoritarian head coach whose position is looking increasingly precarious.
The 48-year-old, who herself made 121 appearances for Les Bleues as a player, became the first woman to coach a men's professional team when she took over second-division side Clermont Foot in August 2014, before accepting the women's national team job in 2017.
Renowned as a tough disciplinarian – she kicked former captain Amandine Henry out of the squad in a 15-minute phone call after Henry had criticized her "tactless and hard-as-granite" style following France's exit from the 2019 World Cup on home soil – she's been unable to lead the Equipe Tricolore to a major final, most recently losing to Germanyin the semifinal of Euro 2022 in England.
"We have some of the best players in Europe, perhaps the world, but we're not having any success," criticized Jean-Michel Aulas, president of Olympique Lyon and influential member of the French Football Federation's (FFF) executive committee, telling sports newspaper L'Equipe that Diacre was now in an "unrecoverable situation."
Noel Le Graet – loss of an ally
And now, following the forced resignation of FFF president Noel Le Graet on the back of allegations of "inappropriate behavior towards women" including sexual harassment, Diacre's chair is wobbling more than ever.
Le Graet, FFF boss since 2011, has been a long-time backer of Diacre and first proposed her for the national team job in 2016. Following the disappointment of Euro 2022, it was the 81-year-old who ensured that Diacre's contract be extended until the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
Following the resignations of Le Graet, Renard, Katoto and Diani, however, she might not even make this year's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
An FFF committee is set to decide her future by March 9.
This article was originally written in German and adapted by Matt Ford