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Controversial penalty sees France defeat Nigeria

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Host nation, France defeated the Super Falcons of Nigeria at the Women’s World Cup to confirm their place at the top of Group A, thanks to a dramatic penalty decision.

In a far from convincing 1-0 victory, Wendie Renard followed up her own-goal in the match against Norway by missing a penalty on Monday night. Like in the Norway tie though lucky was on her side, as the Nigeria goalkeeper was deemed to come off her line early, and Renard awarded a second chance to seal France the win.

She admitted afterwards that it was Eugenie Le Sommer who convinced her to step up again.

“There were players who asked me if I wanted to take a second go at it, and we asked the referee if we were allowed to change the player.

“Eugenie [Le Sommer] came to me and said, ‘No, you’re going to be the one to take the spot kick.’ I was lucky enough to take it the second time and it was very good for the team and me as well.”

With France guaranteed a place in the knock-outs, Corinne Diacre made four changes, including omitting Le Sommer and introducing Viviane Asseyi in her World Cup debut. The changes disrupted France’s play completely – Asseyi a weak link in a team that on the whole put on a disjointed performance.

Along with their opponents, France were unable to get a single shot on target in the first hour, their opportunities mainly arising from set plays as poor final passes and finishing plagued their attack.

A chance in the 53rd minute summed it up, with Valerie Gauvin and Amandine Henry involved in a mess of mishit passes and blocked shots in the box which eventually saw the ball land at Delphine Cascarino’s feet, only for her to launch her shot into the side netting.

In the 62nd minute Diacre finally had enough, and introduced Le Sommer and Kadidiatou Diani. The result was an almost immediately improved tempo, but the penalty would prove their saviour. Ngozi Ebere’s tackle on Asseyi in the box was deemed illegal upon VAR consultation and the Nigerian defender given her second yellow card and a penalty awarded. However, Renard’s spot-kick whizzed wide, clipping the post on its way out of play.

In a cruel twist of fate for the Nigerians though, goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie was harshly deemed to have come off her line early. This second opportunity French veteran Renard would not miss, thumping it into the top right corner on the 79th minute mark, her look to the sky in prayer afterwards a show of her relief.

Elsewhere in the group Norway guaranteed their second-place finish with a 2-1 win over South Korea, leaving Nigeria ranked third of the third-placed teams, with the rest of the group stages to sit through. Nigeria’s head coach Thomas Dennerby summed up his thoughts on the penalty afterwards: “Honestly, if I gave you honest opinions they would probably send me home.”

 

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