Football Features

Diani x Le Sommer shine as France’s 4-4-2 takes them into Women’s World Cup quarter-finals

By Harry Edwards

Squawka | Football News, Stats & Quizzes

Published: 14:05, 8 August 2023

Kadidiatou Diani was the architect as France ended Morocco’s Women’s World Cup dreams with a 4-0 win in the last 16.

There have been some shock results at the Women’s World Cup so far this summer so Morocco may have had some hope of causing another as they took on France, having already contributed to knocking Germany out of the group stage.

The final tie of the round of 16, Morocco will have seen Nigeria dominate England just 24 hours earlier, looking to emulate their fellow African nation and look to become the first country from the continent to reach the quarter-finals since the Super Falcons in 1999.

But France will have also watched that game and how much England struggled despite being favourites, knowing what they shouldn’t do if they are to harbour hopes of winning the World Cup. And France had their game plan perfect. Immediately pressing a Morocco defence that they knew had conceded six goals against Germany in their opening game, France had essentially finished the game inside 25 minutes thanks to a very impressive and ruthless spell.

The opening goal came after 15 minutes with France in firm control of the ball, advancing down the left through good link up play. Sakina Karchaoui was on the receiving end and ran to the byline before crossing into the box were Diani was free to head home her fourth goal of the tournament.

One of the best players in the world, it was touch-and-go as to whether Diani would make it to the World Cup after missing the end of Paris Saint-Germain’s 2022/23 campaign through injury. While it was a sad end to life as a PSG player, with Diani recently signing for Division 1 Feminine champions Lyon, the 28-year-old was indeed fit to start when France kicked off against Jamaica last month and she has been thriving.

Although she has scored four goals at the Women’s World Cup this summer, with only Japan’s Hinata Miyazawa netting more, Diani hasn’t lost her creative spark as part of Herve Renard’s 4-4-2 with an excellent attacking partnership alongside Eugenie Le Sommer.

While Le Sommer was more likely to drop deep as Diani pushed the defence forward, the 28-year-old is sometimes seen either out wide or in the No.10 role to allow her new Lyon teammate to lead the line. France’s second goal came with Diani slightly out wide, breaking through the Morocco defensive line before cutting back to Kenza Dali.

Three minutes later, and eight minutes after she opened the scoring, Diani had another assist to help make it 3-0 to France. Again Diani’s work came slightly out wide as she chased a long ball over the top, putting pressure on the defender.

The assist was slightly fortuitous as the defender’s clearance rebounded off Diani into the path of Le Sommer for the first-time finish, but the 28-year-old deserved some recognition for forcing the error in the first place. Her third assist of the competition, Diani has been directly involved in more goals at the Women’s World Cup than any other player this summer.

Le Sommer scored again to make it 4-0 in the second half, heading in Vicki Becho’s cross for her 92nd goal for France and eighth at a Women’s World Cup. The French legend had entered the tournament level on five goals in World Cup history alongside Marie-Laure Delie but now stands comfortably clear as the outright record holder.

Once again it made Corinne Diacre’s decision to leave Le Sommer out of her squad for the European Championships last summer so bizarre. But now she’s back it has us looking forward to an intriguing battle of the attacks with Le Sommer and Diani set to take on Sam Kerr and Mary Fowler of Australia in the quarter-finals.

“I think what’s good about these two, they’ve really built a really nice connection, a partnership,” Fara Williams said on BBC’s coverage of the game.

“It hasn’t been there for that long, coming into the tournament they didn’t have much time together but they’ve certainly built one here.”

She added: “Centre-halves in the modern day game, aren’t used to playing up against two strikers. We’re so used to seeing a single striker that drops into pockets.

“Playing up against two is really quite difficult and not many teams play with two strikers so I think that can be effective for them, for sure.”