France qualifies for the Round of 16 following a squeaky victory over Norway

15 Jun

NICE, FRANCE – JUNE 12: Norway players celebrate after their team’s first goal during the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup France group A match between France and Norway at Stade de Nice on June 12, 2019 in Nice, France. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

France’s intent to tire out their opponent’s defense right from the first whistle seems to bearing fruit. Attack. Attack. Attack! Norway coulda / woulda / shoulda won this match but there’s something holding them back. No, it’s not VAR. But it’s something and I can’t quite get a handle on it.

Nor glassware apparently. I was so into this match I knocked over a glass of water onto my notebook twice and lost most of my notes. (I feel your relief.) So I only have a couple nuggets of random info to share with you here.

How about this for a statistic:

  • France v Nigeria: 1800+ photos on Getty Images
  • France v Norway: 600+ photos on Getty Images

And I have gone through them all. Applause please.

And I’ll just drop this here off when you have a moment –

Pre-match festivities

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Match overview

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Location: Allianz Riviera, Nice

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Referee: Bibiana Steinhaus (Germany)

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Match details

To quote Jacob Steinberg, “It’s a typically fast start from France, the kind that suggests they were sniffing raw steak just before emerging from the dressing room.” Mmmm. Steak.

Norway managed to cause distress at the other end early on too, with Isabell Herlovsen forcing bungles from Griedge Mbock Bathy and Sarah Bouhaddi.

An unknown stoppage at 10′ until a delegate ran out with a new flag for one of the assistant referees. How do these end up broken? Aren’t they checked before the match?

Anyway, back to it. Norway kept up some pressure and Hervolsen won a corner off Wendie Renard. The resulting play saw the ball deflected over the bar; if it hadn’t been that may have been the opening goal.

Kadidiatou Diani started the match eviscerating the right side and was still doing so 20 minutes in. Kristine Mindi had a rough ride the whole match over there but remained stoic.

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France continued their steak-sniffing ways and Ingrid Hjelmseth continued to look unbalanced.

Another shot for Norway at 44′ with Caroline Graham Hansen making an attempt at the near post with no joy.

Half-time: 0-0

Lots of joy for France less than one minute into the second half.

Amel Majri whipped in a cross off a pass from Le Sommer and Gauvin was all too ready to sweep it past Hjelmseth. 1-0 France.

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I’d like to say Norway responded proportionately afterwards but Renard did it for them at the 54′ mark. Yes, Renard gifted a peach of a calamitous own goal. France 1 – Norway 1.

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I hate own goals but I’m okay with Hervolsen and Norway celebrating this one.

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Don’t worry for France though – VAR to the rescue! Ingrid Engen won the ball then caught Marion Torrent on the thigh because Torrent was late. Unintentional, or what do I know.

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Harsh. But consistent. Are you VAR-ed out yet? I think I am. I appreciate the focus on enforcing the Laws of the Game. I appreciate the pee breaks. But … ugh.

Eugénie Le Sommer got the nod as the penalty kicker, perhaps my least favourite of all the French women players. Although, come to think of it, I don’t have any favourites. I’m indifferent to France, both the women’s and men’s teams.

France 2 – Norway 1.

According to the screen graphic, Le Sommer had scored two of three prior penalties for France by hitting the bottom left corner. Guess where she put this one? 2-1 France.

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A bunch of substitutions. Four minutes of extra time. Final whistle.

Final score: France 2 – 1 Norway

HB & HB Player of the Match: Kadidiatou Diani (FRA)

VISA Player of the Match: Valérie Gauvin (FRA)

Final thoughts

As blood-pumping as this match was to watch it was relatively even. Take away the initial aggressive bursts from France and not much separated the two teams.

France came out hard but faded. Their speed is fun to watch and their dribbling is pretty good too. But they still blunder around in their own half and seem unable/unwilling/disinterested in taking a stranglehold of the midfield. They prefer to press right into the box–great, okay–but it’s an obvious strategy meant to paper over the other cracks in the squad. When more nuanced football is required France’s decision-making shows a bit amateurish.

Norway came out a bit faded but grew in confidence. Maren Mjelde, Guro Reiten (the POTM v Nigeria), and Hervolsen didn’t make it easy for France when they could make a break. They saw the weak points and put enough pressure to force errors and opportunities. What they couldn’t do was sustain their attacks long or deep enough to apply even pressure on France’s mildly brittle backline. Methodical seems to be their approach which is less exciting but may get them far in the tournament.

After all this, France are the first team to qualify for the Round of 16. No surprise there. Norway appear to be on their way to a second place finish. Group A wraps on Monday, June 17.

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– Teri

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