NICE, France: Eugenie Le Sommer scored the winning goal from the penalty spot to lift host nation France to a 2-1 win over Norway at the Women’s World Cup on Wednesday.
Then she had a special embrace for one of her teammates.
France defender Wendie Renard almost cost France the game when she turned the ball into her own net to even the match at 1-1.
Le Sommer came to the rescue and moved France to 2-0 in this tournament when she scored the winner in the 72nd minute. A relieved Renard was one of the first players to celebrate with Le Sommer.
“I knew it was hard for her,” Le Sommer said. “I know Wendie well, and I know how much she can give us. She came up to me completely naturally and thanked me and I just said ‘No.’“
“In the first match she scored two goals. What’s most important is the group. I’m happy also for her that her mistake was rectified.”
Neither goalkeeper was really tested in an entertaining first half, but France took the lead immediately after the break when Valerie Gauvin tapped in Amel Majri’s cross. Gauvin had been benched at the start of France’s opening 4-0 win over South Korea, reportedly because she was late to training.
Norway tied it eight minutes later when Renard knocked Isabell Herlovsen’s low cross into her own net.
Renard, considered one of the best defenders in the world, appeared to be in tears as she raised her face to the sky in anguish.
“I made a huge, huge mistake but we showed our character,” Renard said. “Amel was speaking to me but I couldn’t really understand what she was saying. So to be safe I went to put it out for a corner but it ended up in the back of the net.
“It could have ruined the night, it could have put us in difficulty mentally but we really showed that we are ready, that we are strong.”
Video review was used on Le Sommer’s game-winning goal, which stood because a penalty was awarded after a high tackle by Ingrid Syrstad Engen on Marion Torrent.
“I saw the replays from afar and for me there was a contact that deserved the penalty,” Le Sommer said. “If it was against us, well I don’t know. … I think the referee made the right decision. In the first match the VAR took away a goal from us, in this match it helped us get one, but what was most important was to win this match and the VAR maybe helped us, but we have to get used to this now in football.”
France is three points ahead of Norway in Group A. Nigeria was also three points behind France, which is vying to become the first nation to hold both the men’s and women’s World Cup titles at the same time.
“It was a battle for top spot, even though we can’t denigrate the last match against Nigeria,” Le Sommer said. “It was a very important victory today for our preparation for the rest of the tournament.”
Norway, which won the competition in 1995, is playing without Ada Hegerberg. The 2018 FIFA Ballon d’Or winner stepped down from the national team because of what she says are differences in the way the federation treats the men’s and women’s teams.
“We lost the match but I thought we were equal with the French,” Norway coach Martin Sjogren said. “We knew that we were going to face a very good opponent and we had a good plan. I wasn’t surprised by the French team — we knew they were going to be athletic with fast players and speed — but we played well and I’m very proud of how my players performed out there.
“In my book, I think we deserved a 1-1.”