NICE, France — Host France faced Norway for its second group stage match in front of an announced 34,782 spectators at the Stade de Nice. After a remarkable 4-0 victory over South Korea on Matchday 1, France collected another three points with a 2-1 victory.
Overall, it was a nervous start by host France. Up front, Les Bleues struggled to display the sort of dominance they demonstrated against Korea and were exposed on defense.
It took France until the 20th minute to produce a chance, but Kadidiatou Diani’s shot from 20 yards whistled past the far post.
“We knew that they would be athletic, that they would play over the wings with lots of speed,” Norway head coach Martin Sjorgen said after the game and Diani, in particular, caused some trouble for Norway’s backline.
Athletic and fast, the forward from Paris Saint-Germain was a constant threat and repeatedly managed to overrun left back Kristine Minde. However, Diani’s runs and crosses failed to lead to a breakthrough.
Valerie Gauvin and Eugenie Le Sommer came close to converting chances created by Diani, but missed the target on every occasion in the first half.
France, in fact, completely isolated Norway. But in the 41st minute, Ingrid Moe finally created a chance inside the area, which was easily dealt with by France keeper Sarah Bouhaddi.
⚽️France dominant but can’t connect in first half
— Manuel Veth (@ManuelVeth) June 12, 2019
The Mexican wave started rolling through the Stade de Nice after halftime. That is always a sign action on the pitch is lacking, and it seemed France took note because Les Bleues scored in the 46th minute.
This time, the attack came over the left flank. Amel Majri played in a cross and Gauvin connected well, beating Norway keeper Ingrid Hjelmseth with a low drive.
“At halftime, we wanted to correct some of the initial mistakes,” France head coach Corinne Diacre said after the game. One of those changes was to finally press the Scandinavians on both wings.
“The second half was much better tactically,” Diacre said. “Unfortunately, we scored an own goal. It is a mistake I regret,” Diacre added.
It was an unneccessary own goal. In the 55th-minute, French defender and captain Wendie Renard equalized for Norway with an own goal that made the 31-year-old hang her head. The ball was rolling wide of the net and she needed only to let it go, but instead she attempted to tap the ball over the byline and scored on her own team.
It was a calamity of epic proportion. Off the field, the noise rose right away as the home support tried to roar their team forward. France pressed, but was unable to create any measurable chances against a Norwegian side that lacked creativity but seemed confident to thwart everything Les Bleues threw at them.
“Games can sway back and forward and it is important to stay calm and collected,” Gauvin said after the game. “The most important thing is that we have won the game,” she added.
France did win but needed the help of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in the 72nd minute to score the second goal.
Norwegian defender Ingrid Engen swung for the ball and during her follow through booted Marion Torrent’s knee inside the box. Referee Bibiana Steinhaus initially missed the incident, but after a lengthy review awarded the penalty. Le Sommer stepped up to convert the spot kick.
It was a bit of a controversial decision and Norway’s head coach Sjorgen seemingly struggled to stay calm at the post-game press conference. “You can’t tell a player to hold back in that situation,” Sjorgen said. “That is impossible,” he added.
“We lost the match but I thought the game was even,” Sjorgen said. “But there are many feelings after the match sometimes you can handle them sometimes not,” he added.
Controversial or not France were back in complete control of the match, and although Norway now pressed the Scandinavians could not find a way through.
Bouhaddi – Torrent, Renard, Mbock Bathy, Majri – Bussaglia, Thiney (Bilbault, 81′), Henry – le Sommer, Diani, Gauvin (Cascarino, 83′)
Hjelmseth -Minde, Thorisdottir, Mjelde, Moe Wold (S. Hansen, 86′) – Engen, Böe Risa (Mannum, 90′) – Reiten, Saevik (Utland 76′) – Herlovsen, Graham