Hosts France secured the top spot in Group A at the Women’s World Cup after more penalty controversy saw them earn a 1-0 win over 10-women Nigeria.
A draw would have seen France lead the pool and Nigeria join them in the next round as a top-ranked third-placed side, and such an outcome appeared likely for much of a dull contest.
However, Ngozi Ebere was shown a second yellow card and conceded a late penalty following a VAR review – the second straight match in which France has benefited from the technology.
Wendie Renard missed the spotkick at the first attempt but took full advantage of being ordered to retake it after Nigeria goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie stepped off her line.
Renard, who netted twice against South Korea and then scored an own goal against Norway, proved the match-winner and Nigeria must now wait to see if three points are enough to advance to the next stage.
France predictably dictated play from the off, while Nigeria provided a threat on the break. However, set pieces appeared the most likely route to goal for either side early on as Amandine Henry volleyed wide.
A rare moment of individual brilliance from Delphine Cascarino almost teed up Valerie Gauvin, but the match remained deadlocked at the end of an uneventful first half.
Cascarino slammed wide and then squared for Gaetane Thiney to wastefully shoot off target early in the second period, with the forward going closer when she prodded another dangerous right wing center across the face of goal.
But the penalty – awarded by referee Melissa Borjas following a review of video footage – after Ebere tangled with Viviane Asseyi and was shown a red card finally led to the breakthrough.
Renard dragged a tame penalty against the foot of the left-hand upright, but Nnadozie’s early movement provided a reprieve and the defender picked out the top-right corner to seal the win at the second attempt.
Key Opta Facts:
– The hosts of a Women’s World Cup tournament have won their final group stage match in the competition on seven occasions (W7 D1), with Canada in 2015 the only one of the eight sides not to win.
– Nigeria has faced the host nation at four Women’s World Cup tournaments and lost all four games, conceding 14 goals in the process.
– France are the fourth different hosts to win each of their three group-stage matches after USA (1999 and 2003) and Germany (2011).
– Ngozi Ebere’s red card for Nigeria was the third for the Super Falcons in Women’s World Cup history; no nation has received more (3, also USA).
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