France captain Amandine Henry came to the rescue as the hosts scraped into the women’s World Cup quarter-finals with a 2-1 win against Brazil after extra time on Sunday, setting up a likely clash with holders the United States.
Henry found the back of the net in the 107th minute of a tense game at the Stade Oceane after Thaisa had cancelled out Valerie Gauvin’s second-half opener.
Les Bleues struggled to make their early domination count due to the lack of a killer instinct that prevented them from wrapping up victory inside 90 minutes. The U.S. takes on Spain in Reims on Monday.
“It was a… very tense game against a formidable opponent but we did not give up and we wore them down,” said France coach Corinne Diacre.”I would have liked us to play more in the first half so the second half would have been easier but I guess this will be freeing us for the remainder of the tournament.”
With Brazil’s veteran Formiga returning to the starting lineup, the South Americans appeared to suffer physically as France stamped their authority on a foul-ridden match. Les Bleues, however, lacked sharpness upfront until the 26th minute when Gauvin fired home from Kadidiatou Diani’s cross, but the goal was disallowed after a VAR review ruled the striker headed the ball out of goalkeeper Barbara’s hands.
The decision deflated France and Diacre’s players were less aggressive, allowing Brazil to grow into the game. The French were back in business after the breakthrough and the Diani-Gauvin duo struck again, the Montpellier forward latching onto a cross from the winger to open the scoring in the 52nd minute.
Brazil came close to an equaliser four minutes later when France keeper Sarah Bouhaddi tipped a Cristiane header onto the bar. But the leveller came in the 63rd when Thaisa beat Bouhaddi with a low cross-shot, the goal being allowed following a VAR review after first being ruled out by referee Marie-Soleil Beaudoin.
Brazil had the upper hand but France, who still threatened through Diani, held on to force extra time.
Les Bleues now looked fresher but at the end of a quick counter-attack by Brazil, Debihna’s shot beat Bouhaddi, only for Griedge Mbock to clear the ball away from the line. Shortly after the restart in the extra period, Diani won a free kick on the left flank which was whipped into the box by Amel Majri and diverted into the net by Henry for the winner.
Marta challenges Brazilians, do more if you want to win
An emotional Marta bid farewell to another unsuccessful World Cup campaign on Sunday with a challenge to Brazil’s women: work harder and do more if you want to win. With tears in her eyes after the 2-1 extra-time loss to hosts France, the woman considered by many to be the greatest ever to play the game said the future of Brazilian soccer was dependent on new generations pushing themselves.
“It’s about wanting more, it’s about training more, it’s about looking after yourself more, it’s about being ready to play 90 minutes and then 30 minutes more,” Marta said after Brazil went down to the 107th-minute goal in Le Havre.”So that’s why I am asking the girls. There’s not going to be a Formiga forever, there’s not going to be a Marta forever, there’s not going to be a Cristiane. Women’s football depends on you to survive. Think about it, value it more.”
Looking straight at the camera with a mix of sadness and defiance, she said: “Cry now so you can smile at the end.”Marta was once again one of the stars of the World Cup with her goals against Australia and Italy taking her overall total to 17, the most of any player in the history of the game.
And though the future of the six-times FIFA world player of the year is uncertain, the 33-year-old gave no sign she would quit after France, her fifth World Cup.
“It was a great experience for all of us, and now it’s time to take advantage of this exposure and make the women’s game even bigger and better,” she said.”The World Cup has ended for Brazil, but we need to keep on going. Next year we have the Olympics. And we are very grateful for all the love that came from our country during this run.”
The Brazilian side who came to France looking for their first World Cup win surpassed expectations, winning two out of three group games after losing all nine of their warmup matches ahead of the tournament.
With the future of veterans such as Formiga, 41, now in doubt, coach Vadao said they would now look to blend new talent with experience.
“There is a renewal taking place but, going forward, there shouldn’t be too many changes,” he said. “Players like Marta and Cristiane should be playing for a few more years yet.”