France looking to close out World Cup group play undefeated
PARIS — France hit its first goal by advancing to the round of 16 at the Women’s World Cup. Now the host nation wants to make a statement by rolling through group play undefeated.
France closes its Group A play Monday against Nigeria in Rennes, and Corinne Diacre expects her squad to have a 3-0 record at the conclusion.
“Our goal is to try and top the group, even though a draw would suffice,” Diacre said Sunday. “We are going to go out and try to win the match because that’s always good for confidence.”
France opened the tournament with a 4-0 victory over South Korea in front of a sold-out crowd in Paris, then followed with a 2-1 victory over Norway, with raucous fans backing the national team.
“We are delighted that people are interested in women’s football,” Diacre said. “We know that the women’s game has developed significantly over the last several years. Clearly people identify with the game and are turning out in big numbers, and clearly we are very pleased with that.”
But she wasn’t pleased with the way France played against Norway, a performance she said “wasn’t quite as convincing” as the opener and is incentive for a strong match against Nigeria. Diacre acknowledged she will tweak her lineup Monday but gave no details as to what she’s looking for beyond a victory.
“Given that we are trying to win our third straight match, we need to stay with the same dynamic,” she said. “I don’t know how many changes. I’m not going to tell you either way. We want to remain competitive so we are going to put out a strong starting 11.”
Norway beat Nigeria 3-0 in its opener, but the nine-time African champions rebounded with a 2-0 win over South Korea. Nigeria remains the only African nation to have qualified for every Women’s World Cup since the tournament began in 1991.
The squad, ranked 38th in the world, is in play for one of the final spots in the round of 16.
Francisca Ordega is among the many Nigerian players still haunted by an 8-0 loss to France last year, and the forward said her squad wants revenge.
“We are not scared of France,” she said. “I like challenges.”
GROUP B FINALES: Play begins Monday with simultaneous Group B matches. China faces Spain at Stade Oceane in Le Havre, France, while South Africa plays Germany at Stade de la Mosson in Montpellier.
The match between China and Spain is for the second group qualifying spot because Germany has already advanced to the knockout stages. Spain can draw and still advance due to its goal differential.
China lost its opening match to Germany but beat South Africa to earn a chance at advancing to the next round.
Germany is 2-0 but was lackluster in its win over Spain. South Africa is 0-2 and must beat Germany to advance, but the squad is winless in its last 12 matches.
SOUTH KOREA-NORWAY: The second Group A match goes off at the same time host France will be playing Nigeria.
It’s a lopsided matchup between South Korea and Norway at Stade Auguste-Delaune in Reims, as South Korea essentially has been eliminated.
South Korea has lost to France and Nigeria, and the squad is winless and pointless.
Norway lost on a penalty to France but the team can advance if it beats South Korea.
RECAPPING SUNDAY: Carli Lloyd became the first player to score in six straight World Cup matches with a pair of goals to lead the United States to a 3-0 win over Chile. The win pushed the United States into the round of 16. The score could have been worse for Chile without unshakable goalkeeper Christiane Endler, who finished with six saves and fended off a flurry of shots in the second half. Endler was selected player of the match. … Sweden beat Thailand 5-1, but the Thai squad was thrilled to have scored a goal after its humiliating 13-0 loss to the Americans. Kanjana Sungngoen found the net against Sweden in the first minute of stoppage time, with Thailand already trailing 4-0, but the team celebrated as if it had won.