Crystal Dunn had a titanic battle with Kadidiatou Diani at the 2019 Women’s World Cup. (USA TODAY Photo)
By Michael Lewis
When the U.S. women’s national team takes to the Stade Oceane pitch in Le Havre against the French national team Tuesday, Crystal Dunn will be as fierce as ever, up-close-and-personal to help the visitors win again.
Yet, she admires from afar in what the French national side has accomplished. Many players on the roster and in Starting XI are women of color.
Translated: France has a diverse lineup, something the Rockville Centre, N.Y. native would love to see the USA deploy someday. At the moment, the team has a handful of players who are black or multi-racial, including defender Midge Purce and forwards Christen Press, Lynn Williams and Sofia Smith.
The French men’s side that captured the 1998 World Cup was well known for its diversity of players from many backgrounds and countries.
“I’ve always recognized that about the French national team both on the men’s side and the women’s side,” Dunn said during a media conference call Monday. “I think that their teams have always been very diverse, I’ve always enjoyed seeing the amount of diversity that is placed on the field. It’s incredible. It’s inspiring. And I think that is what makes the French national teams both men and women special.
“There is just that diversity, that uniqueness from one player to another obviously and just looks culture, everything. I feel like that is something that I would love to see on the women’s side in the U.S. as well. I think we’re getting better. There’s definitely more black and brown girls playing this sport but I know there’s so much more work to be done. I hope when I do leave this game, I hope to be leaving it in a better place than I found it.”
As the left back Dunn endured a titanic battle with forward Kadidiatou Diani on the right flank for most of the night at during an epic quarterfinal encounter at Parc des Princes during the 2019 Women’s World Cup The former South Side High School and Albertson Fury standout won the battle as the USWNT won the war and went on to win its second successive title.
This French team will be missing several key players from Lyonnais, which has endured more than its share of problems due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But Dunn figured the hosts will be a formidable foe, even though it won’t participate at the Tokyo Olympics this summer due. The top three European teams at the WWC booked a spot in Japan. Since it failed to get past the quarterfinals, the French will be spectators.
Dunn watched France’s 3-1 win over England in Caen last Friday.
“What I see is still a large group of talented players,” she said. “We’re approaching this game as [if] the Olympics is tomorrow, and this is the team that we’re facing. France has a deep player pool and the players that we’re going to face tomorrow are going to throw many different challenges at us. They’re talented, they’re technical and they’re very dynamic. So, it’s going to be a great matchup.”
When asked about what sort of activities the team has done during its short sojourn to Europe, Dunn said it was about keeping healthy and safe.
“Staying COVID free,” she said. “That is our favorite thing to do. We understand the protocols. It’s not very easy to to obviously go out and really be outside the hotel. We spend a lot of time together in the meal rooms. A lot of us are staying way later at mealtime and are just chatting it up. We’re making it work within the bubble of COVID living in the middle of a pandemic. But we are definitely missing going on long walks going into coffee shops, things like that but we make it work.”