As the score remained tied in extra time and the clock ticked toward a penalty shootout, France’s stress kept increasing. Hosting the Women’s World Cup, Les Bleues are expected to win the title or at least come close.
“It’s not simple. We’re playing on our home turf,” coach Corinne Diacre said through a translator. “There’s a constant reminder that we have this pressure to perform.”
France survived its first knockout match and advanced to the quarter-finals when captain Amandine Henry redirected Amel Majri’s free kick for a tie-breaking goal in the 107th minute of a 2-1 victory over Brazil on Sunday night at Le Havre.
“I didn’t remember what happened,” Henry said through a translator. “I had my teammates jumping on top of me.”
The World Cup hosts, in the quarter-finals for the third straight time, will play the defending champion United States or Spain at Paris on Friday.
“France has everything that it takes to win,” Brazil coach Vado said through a translator. “France is absolutely prepared to win this World Cup.”
France joined England, Germany and Norway in a thus-far all-European quarter-final field.
“We know that there will be pressure. We know that there will be this burden to bear,” Diacre said. “You have to understand that when you’re playing in front of such a huge crowd, even when you’re on your home turf, it’s not something that’s easy to get your head around. I think that we can be a little bit patient. I think we can allow our players to crumble under pressure, albeit for a couple of seconds.”
Valérie Gauvin, whose first-half goal was disallowed in a video review, put fourth-ranked France ahead in the 52nd minute before a crowd of 23,965 at Stade Océane, but Thaisa tied the score 11 minutes later for No. 10 Brazil.
Henry scored on a left-footed shot from seven yards, getting ahead of Monica for her 13th goal in 86 international appearances, her second goal of the tournament.
Brazil had a chance to go ahead near the end of the first extra-time period when Debinha broke in alone and beat goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi, but her shot headed toward goal was blocked in front of the line by defender Griedge Mbock Bathy.
“We weren’t at our best. … I didn’t recognize my team,” Diacre said. “There is something that is not jelling. Why? Because people are unfortunately not hitting their potential on an individual basis.”
This marked perhaps the final World Cup game for 33-year-old Brazilian star Marta, a six-time world player of the year who scored a record 17 goals in five tournaments. And it likely was the last game in the showcase for 41-year-old Formiga, who appeared in a record seven World Cups.
“It’s very unlikely that we will see another Marta,” Vado said. “It’s unlikely that we still see another player like her for her talent, her professionalism, her character, everything.”
France appeared to go ahead in the 23rd minute when Kadidiatou Diani lifted a cross in front of the goal. Brazil goalkeeper Barbara got her hands on the ball and Gauvin crashed into her. The ball went off Gauvin’s shoulder and into the net as both players fell to the ground. After they recovered, Canadian referee Marie-Soleil Beaudoin signalled for a video review, and the goal was disallowed because of a foul.
Gauvin did score a goal that counted early in the second half. Diani sped down a flank past Brazilian defender Tamires and crossed. Gauvin slid in ahead of Leticia Santos and poked the ball past Barbara for her 12th goal in 22 international appearances, her second of the tournament.
Bouhaddi prevented an equalizer minutes later, leaping to tip Cristiane’s long-range shot off the crossbar and over.
Thaisa tied the score with her sixth goal in 82 appearances. The score at first was disallowed for an offside call on Debinha in the buildup but was reversed in a video review. Wendie Renard’s attempted clearance of Debinha’s cross went to Thaisa, who scored with a left-footed shot.
“Obviously, I know my players inside out. I know that we weren’t 100 per cent today and the objective is to hit that 100 per cent for the next game,” Diacre said. “Will this happen? I don’t know. I don’t have a magic wand. I don’t have a crystal ball. I can’t see into the future. But it’s something that we’re working on.”