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France keep outplaying their opponents and losing in big tournaments

Yet another World Cup has passed where France have played arguably the best soccer and not made a serious run at winning the tournament.

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

In a sport still dominated by the teams who first took it seriously, France are a minor anomaly. Even though they only started putting significant resources into women's soccer about 10 years ago, they've developed some of the world's best players, and have a strong national league with five clubs that have made the UEFA Champions League semifinals. They entered the 2015 women's World Cup as one of the big favorites to win, and ranked No. 3 in the world.

But France have yet to translate their talent and club success into international accolades. They have not won a World Cup, European title, or an Olympic gold medal -- and they won't change that this year. Despite an excellent performance against Germany, two-time World Cup champions and the top ranked team in the world, they were knocked out in the quarterfinals, drawing 1-1 after extra time and losing a penalty shootout, 5-4.

In no way were France outplayed in this match. They had more of the ball and more quality chances. The problem was, they just couldn't finish.

They had a half-dozen fairly understandable misses on good half-chances, but two egregious errors stand out above the rest. The first is a second-minute shank by Louisa Necib, who can be forgiven -- she was France's best player, scored the opening goal, and netted a sensational penalty.

But this second miss in extra time ... they don't get any worse. This one might haunt Gaëtane Thiney for the rest of her career. And worst of all, she doesn't have the excuse of being tired late in extra time -- she was a second-half substitute.

As bad as those two misses were, they really shouldn't have matter. France had so many chances to score, and it's incredible that they only took one of them. Germany got a dodgy penalty call, and that shouldn't have mattered either. France should have been up 2-0 or 3-0 by the time Sasic equalized.

So much went France's way in this game, with fitness issues plaguing Germany, who never had their two best players in this tournament on the pitch at the same time. Anja Mittag played the first half, then was subbed out for Dzenifer Marozsán. France couldn't have possibly expected to have that kind of fortune going into the game. And yet, they couldn't capitalize.

For yet another tournament, France have gone out early despite playing good soccer and possessing top talent. They just can't figure out how to get over the finish line. And with some of their best players in their late 20s and early 30s, it's looking increasingly more likely that their first ever group of great players will finish their careers without winning anything.