Julien Laurens, CorrespondentAug 8, 2023, 03:47 PM ET

ADELAIDE, Australia – All tournament long, this was the game France had been waiting for.

“This is why you play World Cups,” midfielder Grace Geyoro told ESPN. “Facing the [co-host nation Australia] in front of 50,000 fans for a place in the World Cup’s final four? It doesn’t get much bigger than that. I see it as a great opportunity.”

Geyoro and her teammates easily brushed aside Morocco in their round of 16 game, scoring three times in the opening 23 minutes on their way to a 4-0 win, and are thinking ahead to Saturday, in Brisbane, where they’ll meet the tournament co-hosts.

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“They are a very good team with great players,” Geyoro added. “We watched them against Denmark on Monday.

“They will be at home, but we are used to having fans against us in this tournament. The atmosphere will be incredible and it will be down to us to deal well with the pressure. We have to play with our qualities and if we do, we will be hard to beat.”

The Matildas have no secrets to keep from the French, who lost a friendly match against striker Sam Kerr & Co. back on July 14. More worrying for the hosts is that Kerr, one of the world’s best players and certainly the star of this Australia side, who has only played 10 minutes so far at this tournament due to a lingering calf injury.

“The advantage of having played against them already is that we know exactly what to expect. We are ready and there will be no surprises. They play with intensity and we will have to impose our game,” said France forward Eugenie Le Sommer.

Forward Selma Bacha said the key will be in France’s team unity, adding: “We know them really well. We won’t make the same mistakes that we did in the friendly. Defensively, we were not good. We didn’t communicate enough, so we will have to do that better and we will get at them more.

“We know [Australia] will have amazing support, but we will be in our bubble and we will do everything we can to get to the semifinals.”

The French side has changed a lot since that friendly before the World Cup.

“Everything will be different compared to then from our point of view,” midfielder Kenza Dali said. “We play in a different formation now (4-4-2 instead of a 4-3-3). Physically, some of the girls have gone from strength to strength since that game. Match after match, we are better physically.

“Our team has evolved since the start of the tournament. The friendly against them had special context: we had just finished a lot of fitness work, we had been travelling for 26 hours [to get to the World Cup] and some of the girls had not slept well in days. Winning or losing those kinds of warm-up friendlies doesn’t matter. This will be different: it’s a World Cup quarterfinal.”

One aspect that a lot of the France players have already mentioned is how strong mentally and fearless they will have to be to beat the Australians.

“Individually, you know me: I don’t fear anyone. We are competitors and to win this World Cup, we will have to beat everyone,” Bacha said.

There’s little fear also from her attacking partner down the left-hand side, Sakina Karchaoui.

“When you have the crowd behind you, you have a force and you give your best every time,” Karchaoui said. “We are not scared. We know it will be tough. They are a top team but we are a strong French team too. We are getting better and better and I have faith in my team.”



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For Dali, the emotional context is the most important thing for France to manage between now and Saturday afternoon; it’s less about their play and more about their state of mind.

“For me, the quarterfinal will be won by whoever deals with all the emotions. It is all in the head. Mentally, if you can deal with the pressure and the emotions, one can go far. Saturday will be a game a bit like the Brazil one, with all the stadium against us and we will have to be strong mentally. We are on a mission,” Dali said.

The French are one of the tournament favourites, while several of their rivals for the trophy have bowed out already, including Canada, Brazil, Germany and the U.S. Even if some top teams – Japan and England have played some of the best football so far – are still in the tournament, France coach Herve Renard and his players believe this could be their year.

A win against Australia on Saturday – setting up a semifinal date with either England or Colombia in Sydney on Aug. 16 – would make others believe, too.