France vs. New Zealand:
Sometimes coaching is all about intuition and making the right decisions while everyone else questions them. French coach Gilles Eyquem must have slept well after his team’s opening and resounding 5-1 victory over Costa Rica. In the game the physically imposing and technically sound French side looked like world beaters managing 5 goals while playing on cruise control for most of the 2nd half. You would think that any soccer coach would be happy with that kind of offensive output and no tinkering with your starting 11 would occur. Well, that apparently is not Eyquem’s style as he is a guy who does not seem happy resting on his laurels. He must have seen things he did not like for he made 5 (!) changes to his starting 11. Almost half! Eve Perisset, Charlene Gorce, Aminata Diallo, Ouleymata Sarr, and Faustine Robert were out of the starting 11 while Lindsey Thomas, Aurelie Gagnet, Marine Dafeur, Margaux Bueno, and Mylaine Tarrieu were inserted in their places. While some might have questioned making this changes for a game in which their opponents, New Zealand, were as physical and also won their first game. But not Eyquem and he proved to be the wisest of us all as almost to a girl the substitutions had an impact on the game.
With both teams tied atop of Group D after having beaten their opening game opponents this game would pretty much assure the winner a spot in the knock out rounds. Fans of New Zealand must have gleaned some hope from their start as they looked up to the task over the game’s first 15 minutes. Then the superior skill and pace of the French made this a rather lopsided game.
The French star of the first game was also a standout in the second. Claire Lavogez has earned a reputation as a talented dead ball taker. She reinforced that reputation when she took a free kick in the 22nd minute from the right hand side that was deftly placed in that dangerous area between defensive line and the keeper. First on the ball was the alert Kadidiatou Diani, who had the ball bounce off her shin into the Kiwi net. 1-0 France.
That was all for the 1st half in regards to scoring though Lavogez, who had been denied shortly after France’s opening goal by a stellar save by Lily Alfeld, doubled her team’s lead in the 52nd minute. This time it was Diani who played the role of provider. She wound her way into the danger area and once she had reached the end line and seemed to have nowhere to go the French striker cut the ball back to the oncoming midfielder Lavogez. Lavogez first timed a cracker of a high shot that gave Alfeld no chance. 2-0 France.
The game at this point was totally France’s with New Zealand not able to gain any significant control long enough to make Les Bleuettes nervous in any way. France, on the other hand, kept creating scoring chance after scoring chance. They were not able to cash in until Clarisse Le Bihan was brought in as a substitute for in the forward position. Le Bihan added two goals during her 26 minutes on the pitch. The first came in the 80th minute when using her pace she beat the New Zealand defender to a long ball and then blasted a low shot taken with her right foot that beat Alfred short side. A mere 2 minutes later Le Bihan had a brace after the Kiwi keeper had missed a French free kick leaving Le Bihan just to have to tap it into the empty net. 4-0 France.
Another dominating win meant that if Costa Rica drew or won against Paraguay that France was assured to advance. Their final game in the Group Stage will be on Wednesday in Edmonton against Paraguay.
-On-Field Officials: Referee – Therese Sagno (Guinea)
Assistants – Trhas Gebreyohanis (Ethiopia) and Tempa Ndah (Benin)
-Goals: 1st Half:
22nd minute: France – Kadidiatou Diani
53nd minute: France – Claire Lavogez
80th minute: France – Clairsse Le Bihan
82nd minute: France – Clarisse Le Bihan
-Shots on Goal: France – 17
New Zealand – 4
-Corners: France – 6
New Zealand – 0
-Player of the Game: Claire Lavogez – France
-Final Score: France – 4
New Zealand – 0
Paraguay vs. Costa Rica:
Both Latin clubs were coming off loses in their first games, so this game was crucial to both sides. Whoever lost the game knew they would not be advancing. Both would be trying to keep their hopes alive.
The two teams play similar styles being smaller physically, but possessing good dribbling skills. Both are guilty on occasion of overdribbling and not taking the shot when they have the opening. For large parts of the game Costa Rica looked like the better side creating more scoring chances, but their inability to cash in came back late in the game to bite them in the butt.
Paraguay, seeming to understand after having lost to New Zealand in their first game that winning was paramount, came out the strong side. They exerted plenty of pressure on the Costa Rican defense hemming the ball in their third of the pitch for long stretches. They were rewarded with an early goal. In the 4th minute Silvana Romero found herself inside the penalty area and face-to-face with the Costa Rican keeper, Noelia Bermudez. As Bermudez came out to challenge the Paraguayan forward, Romero calmly slipped the ball between the keeper’s legs. 1-0 Paraguay.
Costa Rica woke up and started slowly to take over possession and time in the opponents end. They dominated the rest of the 1st half though their domination did not lead to many shots on Paraguayan keeper, Cristina Recalde. Any offense that Costa Rica seemed to create in the 1st half came courtesy of their winger with blazing speed, Melissa Herrera. Her pace caused problems for the Paraguayans all night long. Las Ticas first real scoring chance came when Herrera broke to the middle, saw some space and took a shot from 25 yards out. The shot went just over the crossbar and the Paraguayan and Costa Rican fans all uttered “oohs” for different reasons. Herrera then set up fellow winger Katheryn Arroyo on a clear path to the net. Nerves seemed to get the better of Arroyo as her first touch was not the greatest and she had to stretch to get a shot off leading to the ball going over the net.
In the 29th minute Costa Rica knotted up the score. Again it was Herrera and her speed causing problems for Paraguay. She got by the Paraguayan marking her and took the ball to the endline. She then astutely played the ball low across the face of goal to Michelle Montero just had to redirect into the net from 4 yards out. 1-1.
Paraguay came out strong again to start the 2nd half. Both captain Jennifer Mora (hitting the bar on a 30 yard free kick attempt) and Soledad Garay (just missing wide of the post on a shot from 25 yards) had excellent chances to put Paraguay back in the lead in the first 10 minutes of the 2nd half. For the most part the game happened along the sides and in the middle portion of the field. Costa Rica’s only good scoring chance in the 2nd half was when Gloriana Villalobos pounced on a weak clearance off the head of Sady Salinas, but her volley from just inside the penalty area was wide and that was too bad as Recalde looked out of position. Both teams were playing that fearful style that teams do when they don’t want to make the mistake that will lose the game and are settling for a tie.
In the late stages of the 2nd half it looked like the game was heading for a draw, which was good for neither side, when things turned quickly as they often do in soccer. Maribel Portillo came down the right side of the pitch for Paraguay on a mini break. Her angle was so severe that it should not have caused panic by the Costa Ricans. But it did cause panic in the most important Costa Rican defender, keeper Bermudez. She came out and took down the Paraguayan player with her arms as she went to ground. The German referee did not hesitate to blow her whistle and point to the penalty spot. To add insult to injury she also game Bermudez a yellow card.
Mora assumed the responsibility of taking the penalty. Calming she jogged up to the ball, sent the keeper the wrong way and put the ball high into the empty left side of the net. It was the 88th minute and Paraguay took a lead. 2-1 Paraguay.
You could see that Costa Rica was crushed. So crushed that over the next 6 minutes (4 minutes of added time were put on) they never really threatened the Paraguayan net. A heartbreaking defeat for the Costa Ricans as the tears by Bermudez attested to.
Costa Rica now has to defeat New Zealand by at least 4 goals and France to beat Paraguay to hold on to their slim hopes. A tall task as the Kiwi will need a win or tie to go through as well as France beating Paraguay.
-On-Field Officials: Referee – Bibiana Steinhaus (Germany)
Assistants – Katrin Rafalski (Germany) and Mariana Wozniak (Germany)
-Goals: 1st Half:
4th minute: Paraguay – Silvana Romero
29th minute: Costa Rica – Michelle Montero
88th minute: Paraguay – (pk) Jennifer Mora
-Shots on Goal: Paraguay – 7
Costa Rica – 3
-Corners: Paraguay – 5
Costa Rica – 6
-Player of the Game: Jennifer Mora – Paraguay
-Final Score: Paraguay – 2
Costa Rica – 1