For the French players, life at New York Stadium in Rotherham, next to the River Don, in England, was initially a long calm river against Italy (5-1) and to some extent against Belgium, despite some jolts (2-1). Already qualified and assured of finishing at the top of group D, the French women finally waited for the end of this group phase, to concede their first sharing of points (1-1) against Iceland.
Iceland’s Dagny Brynjarsdottir’s equalizer from the penalty spot – granted with the help of video assistance, following Ouleymata Sarr’s clumsy tripping over Gunnhildur Jonsdottir – prevents the French women from matching their best winning streak ( 17), produced between August 2011 and July 2012.
Variety in the game
But this draw did not affect the cohesion of the Habs who gathered near the edge of the field with the jersey stamped with the number 9 of Marie-Antoinette Katoto, injured in the right knee and forfeited for the rest of the tournament. “We will think of her with every goal,” summed up Melvine Malard after the match.
The absence of the center forward opened up the field of possibilities in attack. Corinne Deacon made six changes to the success against the Belgians. If she had announced in a tone of humor that Wendie Renard was going to start as an attacker, the technician did establish her captain in defense. But in attack, she placed Sandy Baltimore on the left and Melvine Malard in the center. And it only took 43 seconds for the latter to unlock the counter, on a superb double one-two with Clara Matéo, who continues to score points. Malard, who became the youngest French scorer in a Euro on Monday evening, “has this ability to participate in the game and serve as support”, deciphered before the meeting for Le Monde coach Gilles Eyquem, with whom the player has won the Under-19 Euros in 2019.
Main strength of the Blue during the two previous games, the long game on the sides which hurt the Italians and the Belgians so much gave way on Monday to more combinations in small spaces, and it is in this sector that came the tricolor goal. A sign that the French team can offer variety in their game. A game which, if compared to a curve, would look like a sinusoid, as the Blues have alternated between promising sequences and air pockets.
If the “mini-championship” (Renard) of the group stages is now over, it is a new competition towards which the French women are advancing. With a group reduced to 22 without Marie-Antoinette Katoto, Corinne Deacon was able to reassure herself by the contribution of her second offensive knives, very inspired this evening, especially in the first period.
The midfielder brought certain guarantees in the conservation of the ball. In defense, we will have to better manage corners. Twice, goalkeeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin made a hole, failing to punish her team (41st and 60th).
Learn to score in the second half
Black point of the three meetings: the inability to score in the second half, even if two goals were disallowed, first to Melvine Malard, on receiving a cross from Sakina Karchaoui (68th) and signaled offside, then to Grace Geyoro (88th) for a hand.
Corinne Deacon now has five days to prepare a quarter on which she plays big, after elimination at the same stage during the 2019 World Cup. the eye (1-4), the French will have to repeat the dazzling first period offered against the Italians, but over a period of more than 45 minutes. Because if the “Orange Lionesses” are for the moment less roaring than during their continental title in 2017, it is a tide of Batavian supporters who will sweep over Rotherham to support their selection on July 23.
The last confrontation in official competition dates back to Euro 2009. It resulted in a 0-0 and a defeat on penalties for the French. It was already in the quarter-finals. And to avoid any tense scenario, we will have to learn to score after the recovery. “We were better in the second half than in the first. There is no concern at all. We rotated knowing that we were qualified. It’s not easy to find motivation in this kind of situation, ”recalls Corinne Deacon.
His players will have no trouble finding some on July 23, in Rotherham. To finally cross to the other side of the Don, and head south, to Milton Keynes, the site of the potential first continental semi-final in the history of Les Bleues.