“For sure, it’s reassuring that we play together all year round,” Mbock said. “Wendie and I really complement each other, and we can bring our familiarity from our club to the national team.”
That familiarity made Renard’s miscue against Norway all the more unlikely.
“The cross came in, I knew there was one forward left,” Renard said. “Amel said something to me, and I didn’t understand too well. To be safe, I kicked the ball out to give them a corner kick and it ended up in the net. It was not a good look.”
Ada Hegerberg, the Norwegian forward who also stars for Lyon and is sitting out this World Cup, considers Renard and Mbock the “best central defender duo in the world.”
“It’s as if they don’t need to speak to know what the other is going to do,” Hegerberg wrote this week in France Football. “What characterizes them is the speed with which they challenge opponents and the care they take to quickly and effectively pass to the forwards. They are so technically sound but also have the ability to accelerate the team’s rhythm when they get involved in the attack.”
Both can score, too, but no player in this World Cup is as big and obvious a threat in the air as Renard, who in 110 appearances for France has scored 22 goals, mostly with headers.
The Norwegians spent considerable practice time preparing to defend against her, at one point deploying the tallest man available to them, a team official, to play the role of Renard on corner kicks in training.
“I don’t think there’s anyone quite like her in the women’s game, but I think we prepared very well for it,” said Maren Mjelde, a 5-foot-5 central defender who is Norway’s captain. “I know I’m not the tallest player, but I can be strong. I know I’m not going to win in the air against her, so I tried to stop her runs and get her out of her rhythm. Pretty much my goal and aim for the game was not to let her score.”