Football Features

Former outcasts help France extend dominance over Brazil with crucial Women’s World Cup win

By Harry Edwards

Published: 13:21, 29 July 2023

France extended their impressive record against Brazil with a 2-1 win at the 2023 Women’s World Cup, reigniting their knockout stage hopes.

An eagerly anticipated tie, especially considering Brazil’s performance against Panama, this game definitely didn’t disappoint on the action front especially in the first half. While many will have expected Brazil to come out firing after their put Panama to the sword, it was actually France who started the better.

Clearly wanting to right the wrongs of their goalless draw against Jamaica, France took things to their opponents with four shots inside the opening 20 minutes, three of which hit the target.

The final of those four shots came through Eugenie Le Sommer to give France the deserved lead, also restricting Brazil to one off-target effort in that same time frame. It was a significant goal for a few reasons too. Les Bleues‘ first at the 2023 World Cup, and the fifth consecutive major tournament in which Le Sommer has scored France’s opener goal (of the tournaments she has played in).

That caveat is the other reason why this goal was significant. Le Sommer was very controversially left out of France’s squad for the European Championships last summer after a falling out with then-manager Corinne Diacre, despite being the nation’s all-time top scorer with 86 goals at the time. When Diacre was sacked in March 2023, Herve Renard came in and promised a clean slate for all players, which gave Le Sommer her recall and three more goals came before the World Cup started.

Fast forward to the World Cup, Le Sommer is leading the line for France in the absence of Marie-Antoinette Katoto, and against Brazil she scored her 90th goal, heading in after Kadidiatou Diani had headed a ball from deep across goal.

France took that lead into half time but you feel it could have been more, and Brazil did punish them in the second half with more pressure of their own. While there was a bit of fortune in how the ball fell to her via a deflection, Debinha’s first touch and finish to beat Pauline Peyraud-Magnin in the French goal was a bit of magic.

While the magic from Debinha wasn’t surprising, what may have come as a shock to some was the fact that it was the forward’s first ever goal at a World Cup, having fired a blank in 2019 and not been involved prior to that tournament.

But Brazil couldn’t hold onto their lead and conceded the winner in circumstances we have become all too familiar with at World Cups. France had a late corner and for some reason Brazil didn’t sufficiently mark Wendie Renard, who headed in at the far post to secure France’s three points.

This was another significant goal and a stark contrast to the Diacre era. Wendie Renard was arguably one of those responsible for Diacre’s sacking — which isn’t a bad thing — as she, alongside Katoto and Diani, had withdrawn herself from selection for the French national team to protect her mental health, also stating she could “no longer support the current system”.

As a result, Diacre was sacked and Herve Renard brought in, so Wendie Renard was given her place back in the France squad. And just look at how crucial it proved to be.

France are now unbeaten in all 12 of their games against Brazil with seven wins and five draws, only having played more against Spain in all competitions without losing (13 matches). They are also top of Group F, one point clear of Brazil and in a very good position to qualify for the knockout stages.

And, Herve Renard made history himself, becoming the first manager to win a game at the Men’s World Cup and at the Women’s World Cup. Coincidentally both victories came against South American opponents, with Renard’s Saudi Arabia beating Argentina in Qatar. Does that mean Brazil will win the Women’s World Cup?