France’s dream of a maiden World Cup title ended in tears and heartbreak in Brisbane, with Les Bleues losing to co-hosts Australia on penalties 7-6.
After an adventurous start, Les Bleues gradually suffered from the Matildas’ sustained pressure and ability in transitional plays, forcing France into losing too many easy balls in their own third of the pitch. Fortunately, Pauline Peyraud-Magnin and captain Wendie Renard kept the boat afloat. Hervé Renard’s side sometimes looked overwhelmed by the occasion. France’s rare goalscoring opportunities in the first half fell to centre-back Maëlle Lakrar. The centre-back missed a sitter yards from goal and Aussie goalie Mackenzie Arnold then deflected her shot from a corner.
At the other side of the pitch, Australia went close to make France pay for their many errors. A misunderstanding between Sakina Karchaoui and Peyraud-Magnin fell to Mary Fowler, whose goalbound shot was denied by a tremendous goal line clearance from Elisa Da Almeida. France could feel lucky to return to their dressing room on par with Australia, although they were due a hair dryer of a half-time team talk from Renard.
Australia started the second half as they ended the first one – dominating an error-strewn France. The Matildas could rightly feel the game was theirs for the taking and introduced talismanic striker Sam Kerr before the hour mark. France went into survival mode with Australia poking holes left and right in Les Bleues’ midfield. Peyraud-Magnin made amends for several blunders with a flurry of good saves.
France eventually found a way back with Australia loosening their grip on the encounter and struggling to create opportunities. Les Bleues weathered the storm and even threatened to pull off an almighty upset, but the game was to be decided in more than 90 minutes. France was given renewed energy thanks to the introduction of pacy winger Vicki Becho. Les Bleues even found the back of the Australian net from a corner with Alanna Kennedy heading goalwards, but it was ruled out due to a foul from Renard, on a different player. France could felt hard done but, to be fair, it should probably not have been a corner in the first place.
Les Bleues kept knocking with the inspiring Becho forcing Arnold to a great save and Australia seemingly content to wait for the dreaded penalty shootout. Renard took a leaf out of Louis Van Gaal’s book in replacing Peyraud-Magnin with 3rd choice keeper and reported penalty specialist Solène Durand minutes from time. In a breathless shootout,Vicki Becho’s failed attempt proved crucial with Cortnee Vine making no mistake from the spot. France are out.
Australia – Caitlin Foord, Steph Catley (X), Sam Kerr, Mary Fowler, Mackenzie Arnold (X), Katrina Gorry, Tameka Yallop, Ellie Carpenter, Clare Hunt (X), Cortnee Vine
France – Selma Bacha (X), Kadidiatou Diani, Wendie Renard, Eugénie Le Sommer, Eve Perisset (X), Grace Geyoro, Sakina Karchaoui, Maëlle Lakrar, Kenza Dali (X), Vicki Becho (X)
France player ratings
Pauline Peyraud-Magnin, 5
Élisa De Almeida, 7 – The right-back was the best French defender by a mile at Brisbane. Her attacking output was decent and she made little to no mistakes guarding her flank. Her goalline clearance in the first half gave France a reprieve.
Maëlle Lakrar, 5
Wendie Renard, 6
Sakina Karchaoui, 4
Sandie Toletti, 4
Grace Geyoro, 5
Kenza Dali, 3
Selma Bacha, 4
Kadidiatou Diani, 4
Eugénie Le Sommer, 4 – France’s all-time record goalscorer struggled to create opportunities. She was also expertly handled by Australia’s defence, mitigating her hold-up play
Vicki Becho, 5
Solène Durand, 7
GFFN | Bastien Cheval