France coach Herve Renard is confident playing against “an entire nation” will bring out the best in his team when they face Australia in the quarter-finals of the Fifa Women’s World Cup in Brisbane on Saturday.

Les Bleues eased into the last eight with a 4-0 win over Morocco but must now overcome a hostile 50,000 crowd when they take on the co-hosts with a place in the semi-finals up for grabs.

While Australia are bidding to get to the last four for the first time, a win for France will see them match their best performance at a Women’s World Cup, which remains their run to the semi-finals in Germany in 2011.

They also lost in the semi-finals at last year’s Euros.

“We love that. This is why we do this job. It is the beauty of football,” Renard told reporters on the eve of the game.

“The Australian people deserve to be congratulated for making this such a success.

“It has been a fantastic tournament. We are playing in beautiful stadiums that are always full.

“We know we are not just playing against one team but against an entire nation. But it just gives us extra motivation. We prefer this to playing a friendly in front of 100 people.”

France lost 1-0 to the Matildas in a friendly in Melbourne a week before the World Cup began, in front of a crowd of just over 50,000.

Days later, Australia lost skipper Sam Kerr to a calf injury that led to her missing the entire group stage.

The Chelsea forward made her comeback off the bench late on in the 2-0 win over Denmark in the last 16 and could now play a greater role against France.

“I know all the Australian players. Knowing if she is going to play or not is not my worry,” Renard said, playing down the significance of Kerr’s return.

“Their attacking players already work well together. It is a good problem for them to have. But I wouldn’t swap any of my attackers for theirs.

“Even if she is on the field it will not change the way Australia play.”

Australia coach Tony Gustavsson was unequivocal Friday when asked by reporters if bringing in Kerr would disrupt a team which recovered from losing 3-2 to Nigeria in the group phase to beat Canada 4-0 before sweeping past Denmark.

“I want to be very clear with you all now,” the Swede said on the eve of the clash with France.

“If Sam is fit to play 90 minutes, she is starting, it is not even a question, and the team knows that.

“We are talking about Sam Kerr here. Whether she is fit to play 90 minutes and extra time, that is to be decided tonight.

“But there’s no question whatsoever that if she is (fit), she is starting.”

Kerr, who averages a goal every other game for her country, was supposed to have been the face of the World Cup.

But she suffered a calf injury on the eve of the tournament and did not play a minute in the group phase, before coming on in the 80th minute against Denmark in Sydney.

The whole Matildas squad, including Kerr, trained on Friday ahead of the meeting with France.

“It challenges me in my decision-making,” Gustavsson said of having all 23 players to choose from.

“It’s not easy because a lot of people deserve to start.”

‘Best yet to come’

Goalkeeper Mary Earps said the “best is yet to come” from England despite losing Lauren James for two Women’s World Cup games starting with the quarter-final on Saturday against Colombia.

The 21-year-old attacker was punished by Fifa after her red card in the last 16 for stamping on Nigeria’s Michelle Alozie, ruling her out until the final should the European champions get that far.

Chelsea’s James had been instrumental prior to that, including two goals and three assists in a 6-1 thrashing of China, and the winner against Denmark.

“We have a squad of 23, we know how we want to fill that position,” coach Sarina Wiegman said on the eve of the meeting with Colombia in Sydney.

“It’s two games, that’s a fact for us, we respect the punishment. We take it from here and hope we get through.”

England only stumbled into the quarter-finals 4-2 on penalties over 40th-ranked Nigeria, forced to play extra time a player down after James’s red card.

They can expect another tough battle from an attacking Colombia side brimming with confidence after making the last eight for the first time, upsetting Germany along the way.

But Earps said England were in “a really good spot” and “we’ve got more gears”.

“I think you’ve seen glimpses of what we’re capable of,” she added. “I really think the best is yet to come.”

Selection dilemma

Colombia coach Nelson Abadia is confident his side’s strength of character will carry them through to the semi-finals.

“We know all the history that England brings in football, it’s important,” said Abadia, whose 25th-ranked side made the last eight by edging Jamaica 1-0.

“But for me, it’s 11 against 11 and the optimism is the same we have for every match.

“There are several variables in any match – technical, tactical, physical,” he added. “But what’s important for me is the strength in the team’s character and that is going to be vital for what we need to do.”

Like Wiegman, Abadia has a selection dilemma and must decide whether to keep faith with attacking defender Ana Guzman, who played against Jamaica in place of the suspended Manuela Vanegas.

It was the composed 18-year-old’s tournament debut and her wonderful cross set up captain Catalina Usme to score their only goal.

Vanegas is available again, but Abadia said he planned to keep England guessing.

“Football is like chess, you need to know how to move the pieces,” he said.

“We need to be chess players and analyse. We have analysed England and our opportunities and what our best chances are going to be,” he added.