The Paris FC footballers are bringing a breath of fresh air to French women’s football this season. Too often reduced to the ultra-dominant Lyonnais – eight continental coronations – and their main rivals PSG, the discipline takes full advantage of the emergence at the highest level of the capital’s second club, which has had an encouraging run in the Champions League .

Tuesday January 30, the march was too high for the Parisiennes, beaten by Chelsea at the Charléty stadium (0-4). If they were not masters of their destiny – the Swedes of Häcken were ahead of them by one point – Gaëtane Thiney’s teammates played for their place in the quarter-finals until the last day of group D. And will not feed any regret, since at the same time, Häcken won in Madrid (1-0), definitively ensuring their second place.

As since the start of this European campaign and contrary to what the brand might indicate, the PFC was far from ridiculous. The experience of the English, undefeated in six matches, made the difference despite numerous opportunities for the locals, such as a slalom followed by an off-target shot from Thiney (20th), a recovery of Ould Hocine right next to it (27th) or a miss six meters from Julie Dufour (48th).

Conversely, Chelsea were realistic. Chelsea’s Serbian playmaker, Jelena Cankovic, distributed two assists for a first header from Fran Kirby (9th, 1-0) and a second from American scorer Mia Fishel (36th, 2-0). And in the second period, Guro Reiten took advantage of a disagreement between Julie Soyer and her goalkeeper to score a third goal (74th) before Maren Mjelde increased the score following a corner (79th, 4-0) , severe for the PFC.

Before this decisive meeting, the Parisian coach, Sandrine Soubeyrand, confided her pride in the success of her players: “We had a great European campaign, we raised our level. Six months ago, if we had been told that we could fight for a quarter-final in the Champions League, we would have laughed. »

Because before playing in the group stage of the Champions League – a first since the merger of the former women’s club Juvisy with the professional men’s club PFC, in 2017 – the Parisiennes did not have an easy task during preliminary rounds. After quietly getting rid of the Ukrainians from Kryvbass, they successively eliminated two former winners of the Women’s Champions League: Arsenal on penalties, then Wolfsburg.

Before it was renamed and relocated, the Juvisy women’s football club had played in a semi-final of the competition in 2013 and a quarter-final in 2011. Last season, the PFC players missed qualifying for the first round of the Champions League, eliminated by AS Roma in the final of the first qualifying round.

Despite the elimination before the quarter-finals, the PFC players have emerged from their European campaign stronger. As noted in October 2023, a few days after the qualification against Wolfsburg, the Bleues coach Hervé Renard: “Paris FC plays with a lot of French players, it’s the first thing I look at, he greeted, More you evolve in a high-level context, the more you progress. »

Before celebrating her first selection – against Norway in Reims in the Nations League – striker Mathilde Bourdieu also confided to Le Monde her satisfaction: “Our start to the season is impressive, we brought out two big names in the Champions League. We worked to achieve our goal which was the chickens. We have great collective strength. »

“It’s our dream to play big shows”

The end of the continental adventure should not make us forget that the Paris FC footballers are having a high-flying first part of the season. Third in D1 (25 points), the PFC was able to turn things around after a delicate start to the Champions League, marked by a defeat at home against the Swedes of Häcken (2-1) and a rout in London against Chelsea (4-1). In the meantime, the Parisiennes enjoyed two memorable victories against Real Madrid, including a victory (2-1) in front of 10,693 spectators at the Charléty stadium, the club’s attendance record.

Even when completed, this European journey offers a welcome spotlight on the footballers of the PFC, but also on French women’s football. Before this last meeting against the London stars, the Parisian players mobilized to film three videos broadcast on social networks to try to attract people to the stadium.

An initiative from their captain Gaëtane Thiney to which everyone adhered even if the time of the meeting (6:45 p.m.) was not favorable. “It was our dream to play big acts like that. So we might as well put them forward and use them so that people discover us,” defender Théa Greboval said at a press conference.

The PFC can now rely on the experience accumulated during these six Champions League matches. “Usually, we play four high-level matches against PSG and OL, here we played several others,” asserted Soubeyrand. Of course, we will say that we have passed a milestone if we qualify. But we will have passed even if we do not qualify. » With a third club at European level, the whole of French football should benefit from this emulation.