France lay down title credentials to challenge US for Women’s World Cup

June 18 – Three games, three wins. Long way to go of course but as 100 percent starts go, host nation France have laid down a marker in the women’s World Cup in their bid to snatch the trophy away from the United States.

Fixtures were always going to become more difficult after that euphoric opening 4-0 success against South Korea but victories over a dangerous Norway, followed up by a narrow 1-0 win over group outsiders Nigeria with a twice taken penalty following a VAR review, kept the momentum going in front of an excited crowd in Rennes.

Wendie Renard’s first attempt hit the outside of the post, only for the kick to be retaken because Chiamaka Nnadozie had moved off her line and France’s majestic centre back converted at the second attempt.

African champions Nigeria could still reach the last 16 as one of the best third-placed teams but will have to do so without Ngozi Ebere who was dismissed for a second booking in the 75th minute.

It was France’s eighth consecutive victory and their 17th in their last 18 outings but having already qualified from the group, they were at times lacklustre and will have to pick it up later into the tournament.

“It’s hard to tell what we have to do better right now. We wanted to win our three group games and it’s done even if it was difficult,” said coach Corinne Diacre. “But that’s how you build momentum.”

Germany sealed top spot in Group B as they thrashed South Africa and like France have maximum points while group rivals Spain and China played out a goalless draw to secure progression into the last 16 as well. Spain finished as runners-up behind the Germans with China progressing as one of the four third-placed sides.

Norway are also through to the knockout stages as runners-up behind France whilst in Group C Italy are assured of a place in the last 16.

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