The day after the other Women’s World Cup co-favorite looked incredible, France nearly looked calamitous.
Eugenie Le Sommer’s penalty in the 72nd minute helped the French overcome Wendie Renard’s inexplicable own goal and beat Norway 2-1 in Nice.
Many viewed Wednesday’s Group A match as a chance for France to make a statement of its own after the United States’ demolition of Thailand the day before. That didn’t really materialize, but for understandable reasons.
Norway may not have its best player this tournament, but it’s still a top-10 side that was very composed for most of the 90 minutes. In short, it’s not Thailand.
And the truth is, Norway probably deserved a goal. As for the goal they got ... well, see for yourself:
Renard is arguably the world’s best defender, and it’s anyone’s guess what she was thinking here. Maybe she was trying to tap it out of bounds to avoid any chance of Norway pouncing on it.
Regardless, Eugenie Le Sommer seized back the lead with a penalty in the 72nd minute, and Renard likely breathed a sigh of relief.
Video Assistant Referee rewarded the spot kick after determining Norway’s Ingrid Engen clipped Marion Torrent with her studs on a dangerous challenge:
FRANCE ARE IN FRONT AGAIN!
VAR awards a penalty and Le Sommer sends it home to put France back on 🔝 pic.twitter.com/T7eQXyZKTq
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 12, 2019
There were questions over the validity of the penalty decision, but if nothing else, it was consistent with another decision earlier in the tournament. So if there’s a problem, it’s with the rule itself, not the enforcement.
Valerie Gauvin scored the opener for France, and for almost 20 minutes, Renard’s own goal would have led to some interesting ramifications. Everyone has assumed France and the United States would both win their groups and ultimately meet in the quarterfinals, which is how the knockout stage bracket would set up.
If France hadn’t beaten Norway, the Norwegians would have had a good chance to win the group, seeing as how they play winless and goal-less South Korea in the final group stage match. France, then, would have finished second, and a potential meeting with the USWNT would have been pushed to the semifinal round.
Regardless, that’s not how it played out. The French demonstrated they can beat good teams and overcome shocking mistakes, and have to be happy to escape Wednesday with three points.
How that bodes for the rest of their World Cup, however, remains to be seen.
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