France and Norway both went and won their final group games tonight as they secure progression to the knockout rounds of the World Cup. France beat a spirited Nigerian side 1-0 while Norway beat South Korea 2-1 in Reims.
Les Blues did get their win tonight, but it was by no means an easy task for them. It took a controversial penalty incident and a red card to beat a very stubborn Nigerian side who more than showed their class on the night.
The goal came when Ngoze Ebere tripped Vivianne Asseyi in the box as she attempted to shoot. The incident was originally waved away but following a very lengthy VAR review, the referee awarded it. Ebere had already been booked earlier in the game and the ref had no choice but to award a second yellow – Nigeria down to ten.
Wendie Renard was the hero on match-day one, she was very nearly the villain on match-day two. Despite all that, she stepped up to take the penalty, swaggered confidently toward the ball and then dragged it wide. Groans of dismay all around the ground as it looked as though France would drop points.
Then, the referee blew her whistle and pointed to the spot AGAIN! She ordered a retake of the penalty because as the ball was struck, the Nigerian goalkeeper stepped off her line. This time, Renard decided to go the other way and she smashed the ball past the keeper and into the top corner.
In the other game, it didn’t take Norway very long at all to get open the scoring as Caroline Graham-Hansen tucked away a penalty in the fifth minute. That was the earliest goal of the entire tournament so far. Norway held that lead comfortably and in a stroke of remarkable symmetry, they were awarded another penalty in the fifth minute of the second half.
This time it was Isabell Herlovsen who stepped up, and just the way her teammate had in the first half, she dispatched the penalty. Norway had a commanding lead and were storming towards the knockout stages until the 78th minute when Korea managed to pull one back. Lee Guemmin played a lovely back-heeled through ball into the path of Yeo Minji who had no trouble putting the ball in the back of the net.
A little bit of squeaky bum time for Norway at the end but they held on and secured their progression. In the round of 16, France will play the third placed side from one of either group C, D or E. With the likes of Scotland, Argentina, Brazil and Australia all a potential candidate for that spot, it’s not a walkover match.
Norway, on the other hand, will face the second placed team from group C. That’s likely to be one of Australia or Brazil – so neither of these group A sides have an easy route through to the quarter-finals.