BRISBANE: Eugénie Le Sommer and Wendie Renard revived France’s Women’s World Cup ambitions with a goal each in a 2-1 win over Brazil on Saturday to give Les Bleues the lead in Group F.
After missing with a diving header in the 13th minute, Le Sommer scored her 90th international goal to extend her French record four minutes later with an emphatic header that gave Brazilian goalkeeper Leticia little chance.
Debinha equalized for Brazil as the hour approached and the game opened up as both teams pressed for a winner, the Brazilians desperate to end an 11-match winless streak against France.
But it was the set piece where French captain Renard clinched it, capitalizing on some poor defence.
Renard, who had been in doubt for the match with a calf injury she picked up in the lacklustre 0-0 draw against Jamaica, was perfectly placed for a back-post header as the towering defender drifted to the edge of the box to meet a corner with a powerful header in the 83rd.
Hervé Renard has reassembled the French squad since taking over as coach, recalling veterans including Le Sommer and restoring the confidence of others like 33-year-old Renard.
After criticism of France's opening performance for its lack of adventure and flair, his veterans clicked when it counted against Brazil.
“She’s a leader of the team. She’s efficient at scoring goals like today,” the French coach said of his captain. “If she wasn’t able to play today, I’m sure it wouldn’t be the same. We were lucky to have her today, congratulations to her to give us the victory for this game.”
Brazil had opened with a thumping 4-0 win over Panama, with Ary Borges scoring three goals and providing the back-heel assist for one of the goals of the tournament.
Against a more disciplined defence, the Brazilians were mostly unable to finish despite creating ample opportunities.
Brazil coach Pia Sundhage said she was disappointed with her team's first half and inability to stick with the game plan and not contesting quickly enough for possession. She said the failure to build cohesion in the first half was more of a problem for the team than the set-piece defence that conceded France's second goal.
“I'm more disappointed we couldn’t make this a game where we play like the Brazilian style,” she said.
Veteran forward Marta, returning from injury for her sixth World Cup, went on in the 86th minute but wasn’t able to inspire a winner for Brazil.
Le Sommer, who was among the veterans who missed selection for the European Championship last year under former coach Corinne Diacre, was in the thick of the early action for France.
The French started with high tempo and had three chances before Sakina Karchaoui’s long floating ball into the area found Kadidiatou Diani, who headed square for Le Sommer to finish off from directly in front.
But the Brazilians started to meet them for energy, helped by the majority of an almost 50,000-strong crowd.
Debinha equalized in the 58th, finishing off a quick passing movement into the area, controlling the ball with the outside of her leg before firing in a right-foot shot.
Le Sommer was replaced in the 66th Vicki Becho to add some fresh legs to the French attack.
Leticia pushed a hard strike over the crossbar to keep Brazil level and Selma Bacha hit the side netting with her shot from the right in the 75th, unable to break the deadlock for France.
Renard's late winner lifted France to four competition points, one more than Brazil ahead of the last group games on Wednesday. The French will play Panama in Sydney, and Brazil will take on Jamaica in Melbourne.