France captain Wendie Renard said on Friday that she will not play at this year's Women's World Cup to preserve her mental health, with fellow internationals Marie-Antoinette Katoto and Kadidiatou Diani following suit.
Renard, who is widely considered to be one of the best defenders in women's football, played for France in international games against Norway, Denmark and Uruguay earlier this month.
She has 142 caps for France and plays for French side Olympique Lyonnais.
France captain Wendie Renard has announced that she will not play for the team at the Women's World Cup. pic.twitter.com/xxBQD7cbKe— espnW (@espnW) February 24, 2023
According to a report in French multimedia outlet RMC Sport, Renard will not play for the national team as long as coach Corinne Diacre is in charge.
Renard was stripped of the France captaincy by Diacre following their quarterfinal exit at Euro 2017, before regaining it in 2021. Diacre has previously attracted criticism from other French players, including Gaetane Thiney and Sarah Bouhaddi.
"I love France more than anything, I am not perfect, far from it, but I can no longer support the current system, which is far from the requirements of the highest level," Renard said in a statement on social media.
"It is a sad day but necessary to preserve my mental health. It is with a heavy heart that I come to inform you of my decision to step back from the French team.
"Unfortunately, I will not be playing in this World Cup under such conditions. My face may hide the pain but my heart is suffering... and I don't want to suffer anymore."
Shortly after Renard's statement, Katoto and Diani, who have made a combined 114 appearances for France, voiced their support for the 32-year-old and announced that they would be stepping down from the national team until changes are made.
Kadidiatou Diani and Marie-Antoinette Katoto have joined Wendie Renard in withdrawing from the France women’s national team.The players are protesting the team’s management under head coach Corinne Diacre and won’t return until necessary changes are implemented. pic.twitter.com/uSXPl7935e
— B/R Football (@brfootball) February 24, 2023
— Marie-Antoinette (@MarieKatoto) February 24, 2023
— Kadidiatou Diani (@kady944) February 24, 2023
"Following the press release of our captain Wendie Renard and in view of the recent results and management of the French national team, I announce that I am suspending my international obligations in order to concentrate on my career at club level," Diani said on social media.
"I am the first fan of the French team and if the necessary changes are finally made, I will return..."
The French Football Federation did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
This year's World Cup, co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia, will take place from July 20 to Aug. 20.
France have been drawn into Group F alongside Jamaica, Brazil and Panama. They begin their group campaign on July 23 against Jamaica.
(Reporting by Aadi Nair in Bengaluru Editing by Christian Radnedge)