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France progress but flatter to deceive

Having previously said, France were wobbling, it might not have been such a surprise to see them forced all the way to extra time against an aging Brazil side who lacked real bite.

The match, in the muggy Le Havre, wasn’t one for the purists, and France, who’d been hotly tipped to the win their home World Cup continued to flatter to deceive. It was clear from the off that Corine Diacre wanted her team to attack, as she opted to play Eugénie Le Sommer in a top two with Valerie Gauvin and Kadidiatou Diani in support on the wing. Yet, the trio failed to cause the Brazilian backline too much trouble over the opening exchanges.

When Gauvin turned the ball into the net, lifting to from Barbara’s grasp with the top of her shoulder, Les Bleues looked set to ramp up the pressure until a VAR review prompted the referee to rule the goal out.

The match reverted to a stalemate with both sides failing to dig out their best football, both looked tournament-weary and uncertain how to progress. Marta, still carrying a knock, was ineffectual, Cristiane was silent and the offside line was constantly overlooked. The hosts came out a little stronger after the break and took a swift lead as Gauvin got her goal before Thaisa levelled the scores – this time with the help of VAR.

As the match wore down, Brazil seemed to be the better team going forward – something the less than shining stats would clarify – yet everything looked rather toothless. Again, for Diacre’s team, it was a fast start in the second half [this time of extra time] that made the difference when Amandine Henry turned the ball home at a poorly defended corner. With little time to respond and a weak-willed attack, Brazil bowed out of the tournament leaving France to progress.

Again, the home support was out in full force for Les Bleues and there is at least a hope that the World Cup will drive more interest in women’s football at home but it would take some better performances from France. The hosts are still struggling to replicate their fine form from their first match this tournament and will have a tough test in either Spain or the USA in the quarterfinals but there would be no better time to prove their doubters wrong. However, as it stands, after a win, the questions still remain.

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