France and Nigeria close out Group A with the unfortunate assistance of VAR

21 Jun

RENNES, FRANCE – JUNE 17: Referee Melissa Borjas awards France a penalty after a VAR review during the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup France group A match between Nigeria and France at Roazhon Park on June 17, 2019 in Rennes, France. (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)

La la la la la … so, not much happened this match. Until IT DID!! This was not the type of match you try to watch while making sure no one notices that you’re trying not to watch. I almost jumped out of my seat a few times and most especially when the drama went down at the end. Which would have definitely given away my split attention. Of course, if any of my colleagues are reading this then I’ve just outed myself anyway and … it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission. 😁

But enough about me. Let’s talk the makeup and hair controversy that hit prior to the match. That’s right – makeup and hair. I see you rolling your eyes.

Now if you were around back in 2015 you’ll know my affection/affectation for the Netherlands’ love for eyeliner. Others criticized but I gently mocked while marvelling how it still looked intact after running around for 90 minutes. My lasts like an hour tops and I’m a potato.

Anyway, we’ve seen more makeup and more fun hair this go around (hello Marta with the bold lip!). So of course some people just don’t like it. Francisca Ordega found herself being criticized on social media for it and unleashed

Why shouldn’t women have funky hair styles or wear makeup or have tattoos? The New York Times is here to get to the bottom of it.

This is what a female footballer looks like: goddess.

This is also what a female footballer looks like: goddess.

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And in case you thought Ordega’s smack downs were relegated to trivial items:

Now on to the match!

Pre-match festivities

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Match overview

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Location: Roazhon Park, Rennes
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Referee: Melissa Borjas (Honduras)
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Match details

Desire Oparanozie got the first chance of the game four minutes in with a header that forced Sarah Bouhaddi to make the save. Valérie Gauvin said “anything you can do …” and gave France their first opportunity but failed to put her free header in the net. So maybe … not so much better?

Amel Majri flew down the left (like she does anything else but fly) then saw her cross go behind for a corner. Henry used the corner to play in Viviane Asseyi who sent the ball wide.

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Gauvin tried another header and sent it over the crossbar. Amandine “the smirker” Henry got the next opportunity at close range but sent the ball into the boards. Is “boards” the correct term for those annoying AF signs along the field?

If you weren’t impressed at this stage by Nigeria you weren’t paying attention. Defensively solid, like solid. And the counter attacks. Where was this focused ambition in the first two matches?!

Their decision-making, however, still needs work. Asisat Oshoala kicked off one of those counters only to take on Griedge Mbock Gathy rather than pass to Oparanozie. It did not work out well.

Boom! That’s my imagined sound for Ebere’s take out of Cascarino at the 28th minute. Yellow card. Merci.

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30 minutes into the match the commentator noted that France had 70% possession thus far. This is not unusual; they are the Spanish French when it comes to possession (I know this doesn’t make sense but I also know you get what I mean). Though not in their team passing, as there was an interesting spell where each team sent nice passes to players on the opposite team.

Ngozi Okobi-Okeoghene headed down the left and picked out Oparanozie charging for the near post. The ball went a bit too far and Bouhaddi made the ball her precious.

Hold on – Nigeria started stringing together a bunch of quick passes in the midfield which was a bit unusual. In a good way. Change is good.

At the 41′ Delphine Cascarino came in on the right, lost her defender and sent in a lovely cross to Gauvin who couldn’t do anything with it. She had plenty to do with Onome Ebi though right after, as she powered right through her and gave away a free kick.

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Rita Chikwelu went down with what looked like a head injury. She went off for treatment but was okay to continue. She has great hair too.

Into extra time and Gauvin went for an overhead kick and whacked Osinachi Ohale instead. Was it a yellow for dangerous conduct? Hell yes it was.

Half-time: 0-0

I should say here that France had more chances then I’ve recorded, and had six shots on target in the first half. This seems important but not important enough. You know what I mean?

Tentative goings to start the second but then some boos set it. Boos? Something about a foul being called in favour of Nigeria that the crowd thought shouldn’t have been? I didn’t catch it. Nothing exciting happened as a result of it so let’s move on.

Cascarino got in on the right and sent in a soaring cross that kept sorta soaring. She then got another chance after some penalty area ping-pong but hit the side netting.

Time for Gaëtane Thiney to take a run at the box but she forgot to control the pass. Out for a corner that was also forgettable.

Cascarino and Thiney then joined forces on a long ball that found Thiney unmarked in the box only for her to miss the net completely. Zut alors!

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An hour in and time for substitutions. Uh oh. My least-favourite-French-player-but-not-really-yes-really Eugenie Le Sommer came on for Cascarino and Kadidiatou Diani for Gauvin.

I’m going to pause here and say that people talk at length about the depth of the USA bench. But France has a deep, deep bench too. Plus seven of their players are together at Olympique Lyon. The six-in-a-row winners of the UCWL.

Back at it. Majri popped up and unleashed a shot straight at Chiamaka Nnadozie. Thiney missed again, skewing it wide off a slide. Wendie Renard missed a header while being called for a foul.

And then the drama began. The 73rd minute. Asseyi went down in the box under pressure from Ebere but referee said no penalty.

But VAR went … wait a minute. We’re lonely and in need of some attention. So off the referee went to the handy monitor. Tick tick tick. Decision reversed – a penalty to France and a red card to Ebere.

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Did you see that little smirk by Henry there? Hmm mmm.

Renard stepped up and sent the ball wide. Woot woot!!

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No. No.

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The Nigerian players went off. Fans went off. I silently went off but didn’t show it. Nnadozie WENT OFF and got a yellow card for dissent. Like she went Buffon-off.

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Penalty retake! Renard went back to the line and six minutes after all this started she slotted home her retry. 1-0 France.

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I was crushed. Were you crushed?

Substitution time for Nigeria as they looked to equalize. Nnadozie went down with an injury and needed medical assistance. And a rage room too no doubt but that would have to wait.

Eight minutes of extra time. Uneventful compared to 20 minutes earlier.

Final score: France 1 – Nigeria 0

HB & HB Player of the Match: Chiamaka Nnadozie NGA

VISA Player of the Match: Wendie Renard FRA

Final thoughts

Was luck on France’s side today? No. Was luck on Renard’s side today? Yes. If you had told me Renard would be France’s leading scorer at this stage and have two POTM trophies I would have said mmmm, okay. But that’s where France is at.

They didn’t play spectacularly well in this match and that is largely down to Nigeria. They kept France contained and held their line. That is a monumental feat for Nigeria. Bad news for France. I’ve been saying throughout that France have their weaknesses just like everyone else. Here you could see that all the countering in the world doesn’t make up for poor finishing and shoddy possession. Brazil is up next for the Bleus. I’ve got chills.

This loss meant Nigeria had a nail-biting time waiting to see if they would make it through to the Round of 16. For the first time in 20 years! They’ll take on Germany. Talk about a clash of football styles. Nigeria will need to get their counters working more collaboratively if they want to beat Die Nationalelf.

As for the penalty … there have been, what, three penalty retakes now in the tournament? As someone said to me – no one will ever save a penalty again. VAR being used to enforce the goal line rule is okay but why not player encroachment too?

And here’s someone who can do something about it, but unlikely –
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