France beats Norway 2-1 to remain undefeated in Women's World Cup

France's Eugenie Le Sommer celebrates with teammates in Nice. (AFP)
Updated 13 June 2019
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France beats Norway 2-1 to remain undefeated in Women's World Cup

  • Le Sommer came to the rescue and moved France to 2-0 in this tournament

NICE, France: Eugenie Le Sommer scored the winning goal from the penalty spot to lift host nation France to a 2-1 win over Norway at the Women’s World Cup on Wednesday.
Then she had a special embrace for one of her teammates.
France defender Wendie Renard almost cost France the game when she turned the ball into her own net to even the match at 1-1.
Le Sommer came to the rescue and moved France to 2-0 in this tournament when she scored the winner in the 72nd minute. A relieved Renard was one of the first players to celebrate with Le Sommer.
“I knew it was hard for her,” Le Sommer said. “I know Wendie well, and I know how much she can give us. She came up to me completely naturally and thanked me and I just said ‘No.’“
“In the first match she scored two goals. What’s most important is the group. I’m happy also for her that her mistake was rectified.”
Neither goalkeeper was really tested in an entertaining first half, but France took the lead immediately after the break when Valerie Gauvin tapped in Amel Majri’s cross. Gauvin had been benched at the start of France’s opening 4-0 win over South Korea, reportedly because she was late to training.
Norway tied it eight minutes later when Renard knocked Isabell Herlovsen’s low cross into her own net.
Renard, considered one of the best defenders in the world, appeared to be in tears as she raised her face to the sky in anguish.
“I made a huge, huge mistake but we showed our character,” Renard said. “Amel was speaking to me but I couldn’t really understand what she was saying. So to be safe I went to put it out for a corner but it ended up in the back of the net.
“It could have ruined the night, it could have put us in difficulty mentally but we really showed that we are ready, that we are strong.”
Video review was used on Le Sommer’s game-winning goal, which stood because a penalty was awarded after a high tackle by Ingrid Syrstad Engen on Marion Torrent.
“I saw the replays from afar and for me there was a contact that deserved the penalty,” Le Sommer said. “If it was against us, well I don’t know. ... I think the referee made the right decision. In the first match the VAR took away a goal from us, in this match it helped us get one, but what was most important was to win this match and the VAR maybe helped us, but we have to get used to this now in football.”
France is three points ahead of Norway in Group A. Nigeria was also three points behind France, which is vying to become the first nation to hold both the men’s and women’s World Cup titles at the same time.
“It was a battle for top spot, even though we can’t denigrate the last match against Nigeria,” Le Sommer said. “It was a very important victory today for our preparation for the rest of the tournament.”
Norway, which won the competition in 1995, is playing without Ada Hegerberg. The 2018 FIFA Ballon d’Or winner stepped down from the national team because of what she says are differences in the way the federation treats the men’s and women’s teams.
“We lost the match but I thought we were equal with the French,” Norway coach Martin Sjogren said. “We knew that we were going to face a very good opponent and we had a good plan. I wasn’t surprised by the French team — we knew they were going to be athletic with fast players and speed — but we played well and I’m very proud of how my players performed out there.
“In my book, I think we deserved a 1-1.”


Victorious Japan kick off Asia’s first Rugby World Cup in style

Updated 50 min 24 sec ago
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Victorious Japan kick off Asia’s first Rugby World Cup in style

  • Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was among the home fans decked out in red and white replica shirts as Kotaro Matsushima’s hat-trick ensured a 30-10 bonus-point win over Russia
  • The six-week tournament promises to be one of the most open in history with several teams considered capable of denying New Zealand an unprecedented third straight title

TOKYO: Hosts Japan kicked off the first Rugby World Cup in Asia with victory Friday as the game seeks to attract new converts outside its traditional heartlands in Europe and the southern hemisphere.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was among the home fans decked out in red and white replica shirts as Kotaro Matsushima’s hat-trick ensured a 30-10 bonus-point win over Russia at Tokyo Stadium.
The opening ceremony saw children representing the 20 competing teams belting out the World Rugby anthem “World in Union” before former All Black skipper Richie McCaw brought in the glittering Webb Ellis Cup.
Prince Akishino officially declared the tournament open, with World Rugby chief Bill Beaumont saying: “This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for... We can all be very proud tonight. You have made history.”
The six-week tournament, which culminates on November 2, promises to be one of the most open in history, with several teams considered capable of denying New Zealand an unprecedented third straight title.
Organizers hope stars such as All Black Beauden Barrett, Ireland’s Johnny Sexton or South Africa’s Siya Kolisi will spark enthusiasm for the game in Japan and Asia more broadly.

The early signs are good, with officials saying the tournament should be close to a complete sell-out and a staggering 15,000 fans turning out on a public holiday just to watch Wales train.
“I often watch football and basketball but I don’t watch rugby,” salaryman Hirohide Kawase, 54, told AFP at the public viewing in Tokyo’s glitzy Ginza district.
“So I thought this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
The global rugby showpiece will serve as a tasty amuse-bouche for Japan as it prepares to host the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics.
Officials claim that a promotional drive has inspired 1.8 million new rugby participants since 2016, one million of those in Japan.
But there are also reasons to believe the game in Japan is in need of support, with declining gates for club rugby matches and the country’s only Super Rugby franchise, the Tokyo-based Sunwolves, booted out of the competition for commercial and logistical reasons.
Much will depend on the success of the home team, which is aiming to build on the win against Russia to reach the quarter-finals for the very first time.
Japan served up the biggest shock in World Cup history in 2015 when they beat the mighty Springboks 34-32 in a match dubbed the “miracle of Brighton” that has even inspired a movie.
This time, however, no one is taking the Brave Blossoms lightly and they will do well to get out of a pool dominated by Ireland and Scotland.
The All Blacks remain the team to beat and their crunch encounter with South Africa on Saturday will go a long way to determining the outcome of Pool B — and maybe the next home of the Webb Ellis Cup.
Ireland come into the competition as the world’s number one side, but they often flatter to deceive when it comes to the World Cup and have never ventured beyond the quarter-finals.
Much rests on the shoulders of fly-half Sexton who at 34 is no longer in the first flush of youth and has suffered an alarming dip in form.
England, coached by Eddie Jones — who led Japan to that famous win over the Springboks — will also fancy their chances but they have been drawn in a tough Pool C alongside bitter Six Nations rivals France and the ever-dangerous Argentina.
Jones named a full-strength team for the opening match against Tonga, showing he is not taking the Pacific islanders lightly.
The other group sees Australia and Wales as the top teams and either one could trouble the business end of the competition.
But the gap between the traditional haves and have-nots of World Rugby has shrunk and more upsets are expected — with Fiji in particular considered a dangerous dark horse.
With the tournament held in natural disaster-prone Japan, organizers say they have put in a “meticulous” contingency plan against earthquakes and also typhoons, which are very much in season during the competition.
If a match cannot be played, it will count as a draw, resulting in the intriguing potential scoreline of New Zealand 0, Namibia 0.