France completed a perfect three wins from three in Group A with a 1-0 victory over Nigeria thanks to a re-taken penalty by Wendie Renard

Delphine Cascarino

A furious Nigeria manager, Thomas Dennerby, claimed the officials had ruined the match after Wendie Renards retaken penalty following a double VAR check ensured France progress to the last 16 having topped Group A. Nigerias hopes of a third-place finish now hang by a thread.

If I gave you honest opinions, they would probably send me home, he said, bluntly. When asked about his teams performance, he replied: My players are heroes.

The France manager, Corinne Diacre, was pleased to benefit from the referee following the letter of the law. There are new rules so we know that the goalkeeper has to have at least one foot on the line, which wasnt the case, she said. Thats why she was given a yellow card and that was a little bit severe for her but we have to apply the rules.

With the sun setting, the Rennes ultras known for their flares, flags, coordinated celebrations, drums and constant singing were out in force for Les Bleus.

France laboured early on, though, against a side that secured a surprise three points against the run of play in a 2-0 defeat of South Korea. The four changes to the French starting XI leaving out the Lyon forwards Eugnie Le Sommer and Kadidiatou Diani had clearly disrupted their rhythm.

Delphine Cascarino was by far their brightest outlet on the right, causing problems for the left-back, Ngozi Ebere, who eventually picked up a yellow card for clearing out the 22-yearold, but without Diani and Le Sommer, and Valrie Gauvin quiet, Cascarino was forced to resort to playing for corners rather than whipping balls into more dangerous areas.

Wendie
Wendie Renards first effort from the spot rolls wide of Chiamaka Nnadozies right-hand post. Photograph: Eddy Lemaistre/EPA

 

Neither side had a first-half shot on target the second game of the tournament to have done so, Argentinas stalemate with Japan the other. A volley wide of the near post from Amandine Henry was perhaps the best attempt of a lacklustre half.

As the teams came out of the tunnel for the second half mobile phone lights were held aloft, perhaps hoping to prompt a more electric response on the pitch. France looked to match the instant breakthrough they made against Norway, a Gatane Thiney free-kick was whipped on to the head of Renard but she could not direct it goalwards.

There was more purpose to Frances play. Amel Majri and Viviane Asseyi looked to even up their lopsided attack on the left, but the latters mazy runs were lacking the final ball, short passes being picked off with ease by the organised Nigeria backline.

France should have taken the lead when, under no pressure, Thiney fired wide of the goal after a Cascarino cut-back. In order to reinstate some fluidity, on came Diani and Le Sommer to a roar of delight from the crowd. Asseyi, now out wide in Cascarinos place, instantly looked better for the move.

The changes to the line-up suggested that Diacre had underestimated her opposition. This is a much better prepared Super Falcons team than the one that did not have a game between the 2016 African Cup of Nations and April 2018. They have often had quality players to make up for severe underfunding but under Dennerby they look a more professional outfit.

It was a moment of madness that killed their hopes. Ebere received a second yellow for felling Asseyi from behind and up stepped Renard to take the spot kick after the Honduran referee, Melissa Borjas, had paused to consult the VAR.

Renards stuttering run and tame effort pinged off the post but after another VAR check Chiamaka Nnadozie was adjudged to have moved off her line before the ball was hit and Renard had a shot at redemption, this time making no mistake.

Eugenie came to me and said: No, youre going to be the one to take the spot kick, said Renard of her second attempt. I was lucky enough to take it the second time and it was very good for the team and me as well.

Of course, Im disappointed with the result, said Dennerby, before throwing down his earpiece at the conclusion of the press conference. France is a really good team and they dont need support to win games. So I feel so sorry because the girls were fighting so well and they followed the match plan and its getting destroyed by people that we are not happy with.

 

 

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