France muddled yesterday their way to the second round of the ongoing 2019 FIFA World Cup in France, thanks to a controversial penalty decision late in their match over a 10-woman Nigeria.
It was a far from convincing 1-0 win and almost a complete disaster for Wendie Renard, who followed up her own goal in the match against Norway by missing her penalty. Luckily for her, the Nigeria goalkeeper came off her line too quickly, giving Renard a second chance to seal the win.
Corinne Diacre promised changes this match and she stuck to her word, replacing four who started against Norway, including Eugenie Le Sommer, who was at risk of suspension.
However, it was Nigeria who had one of the more substantial chances of the half within the first four minutes, when their captain Desire Oparanozie almost got a header over the line from a corner.
After a listless first half that produced no shot on goal from either side, the French came into the second period with greater urgency, but still could not find a way past a determined rearguard of Onome Ebi, Osinachi Ohale, Chidinma Okeke, Ngozi Ebere and Nnadozie.
Eventually, it was Ebere whose awakward touch on an advancing Asseyi got France the penalty that separated both teams and earned the host nation the maximum nine points from their three group games for the first time in their history of participation in the World Cup.
With only three points from their three matches and a two-goal deficit, the Falcons’ progress to the knockout rounds for the first time in 20 years will be sealed if Argentina are unable to accomplish a handsome win over Scotland in their final Group D game on Thursday, or Cameroon are unable to defeat New Zealand by more than one goal in their final Group E duel on Friday.
China, with four points in Group B, and Australia, with three points already from two matches in Group C, look already good enough for the Round of 16.
ith the USA and Sweden packing all the points in Group F, third –placed Chile is still pointless and must defeat Thailand by more than three goals to get in the way of Nigeria.
The four best third –placed teams in the six groups will join the two top –placed teams in each group to the Round of 16.