29.07.2023 16:13 h

Renard gives France vital win over Brazil

Captain Wendie Renard headed in a late winner as France kickstarted their Women's World Cup campaign with a 2-1 victory over Brazil in a heavyweight clash in Brisbane on Saturday.

After a lacklustre 0-0 with Jamaica in their opening game, France defied the Brazilian team and most of the 49,378 crowd to secure three vital points ahead of their final group match against tournament debutants Panama.

France, one of the pre-tournament favourites, controlled much of the game and took the lead in the 17th minute through veteran striker Eugenie Le Sommer with her 90th goal in 191 appearances.

Brazil hit back in the second half through Debinha, but the 33-year-old defender Renard appeared at the back post to head in an 83rd-minute winner from a corner.

French manager Herve Renard -- no relation to his captain -- said he was always confident France would bounce back from the draw against Jamaica.

"In their preparation they were focused and really concentrating on the match, so I knew they would get back on track," he said of his side.

"Sometimes it's good to get off to a shaky start at a tournament like this as it makes you more determined.

"Our objective is still to finish on top of the group so we need to keep this mindset for our next game."

Brazil were scintillating in thrashing Panama 4-0 to open their World Cup.

Ary Borges hit a hat-trick in that big win, but she and her team never hit those heights on a perfect Brisbane evening.

Coach Pia Sundhage conceded her team had been outplayed, especially in the first half.

"We'd been well prepared leading up to the game. Everything had been good, but I could not make them play the way they played in the match before," she said.

"Second balls, loose balls, the French players were so much faster to get there and for me that's disappointing.

"The players we have are fast, they are quick, but today the first half was not good."

On a perfect Brisbane evening the French had the better of a lively first half with their attacking duo of Le Sommer and Kadidiatou Diani causing the Brazilian defence all sorts of problems.

Le Sommer went close in the 13th minute only to be denied by a diving one-handed save from goalkeeper Leticia.

Four minutes later she was not to be denied as Sakina Karchaoui put in a long diagonal cross which Diani helped on for an unmarked Le Sommer to head in.

Brazil came back into the game in the second half and were rewarded when Debinha latched onto a deflected shot from Kerolin and fired the ball past goalkeeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin to level proceedings.

The match began to open up with both teams going in search of a winner, and France went close as Grace Geyoro drew a good save from Leticia.

With time running out France struck again to secure a crucial victory.

Selma Bacha swung in a corner from the right seven minutes from time and Renard -- who had been a pre-match injury doubt -- appeared unmarked at the far post to head home and put her team on course for the knockout phase.

Brazil threw on veteran forward Marta but could not equalise a second time.