Wendie Renard stands 6-foot-2 and often plays with flowing hair that makes her rise even higher on the pitch.
She is the tallest player in the Women’s World Cup, perhaps its most unique talent, and quite possibly the single-most formidable obstacle in the United States’ path to a championship.
The Americans play Renard’s French national team Friday (3 p.m. ET) in the quarterfinals here. The two clubs are ranked Nos. 1-2 in the world and are the favorites to win the tournament. FIFA pingpong balls set this matchup early, a potential de facto title game in the round of eight.
The French have two wins and a draw in their last three matches against the U.S., including a 3-0 victory in January. The roster is littered with great players.
Renard may not even be the best, but she certainly stands out, and not solely due to her stature.
She is a forceful, physical defender who locks down the middle with partner Griedge Mbock Bathy. For an American team that failed to record a single shot on goal in a 2-1 victory over Spain in the Round of 16 (both goals came on penalty kicks), her ability to potentially shut down the 5-foot-7 Alex Morgan and snuff out attacks is a major concern.
Then, due to her height, Renard is an immense challenge at the other end of the field during French set pieces and corner kicks. She can simply get her forehead on balls that no one else can, making her a threat at any moment of the game. Renard even scored on a penalty kick in a Group stage victory over Nigeria. To get that kind of offense from a backline player is a major bonus for any team.
“She’s great in the air,” said U.S. midfielder Samantha Mewis. “And I think our setup on set pieces will remain the same and you just have to make sure we are doing our job and watching out for her because she is definitely dangerous.”