Kadidiatou Diani scored a hat trick as France advanced to the knockout stage of the Women’s World Cup on Wednesday after a 6-3 win over Panama.
The world’s No. 5-ranked team recovered from the shock of going behind to Marta Cox’s 30-yard (meter) free kick after two minutes at Sydney Football Stadium to finish atop Group F. Jamaica placed second in the group after a 0-0 draw with Brazil.
France, which had also been held to a 0-0 draw against Jamaica in its opening game, advanced after back-to-back wins against Brazil and Panama.
The French only needed a draw to guarantee their place in the round of 16 for the fourth time in succession. But France was given an early scare when Cox whipped the ball into the top corner, beyond the reach of goalkeeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin to score her country’s first goal at a Women’s World Cup in style.
France responded impressively to that early setback by going into the break with a 4-1 lead.
Panama’s Deysire Salazar lashed the ball into her own net when trying to clear Maelle Lakrar’s header in the 21st. Diani scored her first goal seven minutes later, and converted from the spot in the 37th after Yomira Pinzon handled in the area.
Lea Le Garrec’s made it 4-1 in the fifth minute of first half stoppage time.
Panama’s players had gone from elation at the start of the half to dejection at the end of it.
As the whistle blew for the break, Cox gathered her teammates for an impromptu huddle in the middle of the field, with the players looking visibly frustrated.
It got worse for Panama as Diani scored her second penalty seven minutes after the break when Wendy Natis was penalized on a VAR review for handling in the box.
France appeared capable of going on a goal spree in the second half, but it was Panama’s players who mounted an unexpected fightback.
They pulled a goal back with a penalty in the 64th, which was converted by Pinzon.
Lineth Cedeno scored another for the 52-ranked team, with a header in the 87th.
Vicki Becho hit France’s sixth in the 10th minute of stoppage time to set a new record for the number of goals her country has scored in a Women’s World Cup match.
France will play the second-place team from Group H in Adelaide next Tuesday.