Hosts France secured the top spot in Group A as they maintained their perfect record at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup with a controversial 1-0 win over 10-woman Nigeria on Monday.
Les Bleues had opened up their home tournament with victories against South Korea and Norway, and Wendie Renard’s 79th-minute penalty at Rennes’ Roazhon Park made it three from three going into the knockout rounds.
However, the spot-kick was controversial. It was awarded via VAR after Ngozi Ebere was adjudged to have fouled Viviane Asseyi in the box, which led to the Nigerian’s sending off for a second yellow card.
Renard then blasted into the corner for France’s goal, but only after she was allowed to re-take the penalty due to goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie coming off her line. She had hit the post with her first effort.
As Group A winners, France will face one of the best third-placed teams in the last 16, while Nigeria have to wait to see if they have secured one of the best third-place spots in the first knockout round.
The highly-controversial goal did little to cover for a frustrating French performance in Rennes.
Both sides knew ahead of the game a point would be favourable for everyone, but the hosts did not come out looking to play for a draw.
Unfortunately for their fans, France were largely poor in the final third.
They had chances in the first half, most notably on set-pieces, where Amandine Henry squandered a couple of decent positions:
Delphine Cascarino was also wasteful, but the most glaring of French misses came just before the hour when Gaetane Thiney blasted wide with her left foot despite having the goal at her mercy inside the box.
Most damning was the fact that Amel Majri’s long-range effort in the 65th minute that went straight at goalkeeper Nnadozie was their first shot on target of the match.
It looked as though the game may fizzle out to a goalless draw, but then Ebere got her timing wrong as she tried to challenge Asseyi in the area:
Renard stepped up to take the spot-kick, but her nonchalant effort hit the post and went wide of the goal.
In a dramatic twist, the centre-back was given a reprieve when the VAR saw Nnadozie had come off her line before Renard took her shot.
At the second time of asking, she converted emphatically from the spot, but she was fortunate to have had another opportunity:
It was a knockout blow for Nigeria, and particularly harsh on Nnadozie, who saved well from substitute Eugenie Le Sommer late on.
The Super Falcons now face a nervy wait to see if they have a spot in the last 16.