The first penalty shootout of Azerbaijann 2012 saw Marion Romanelli strike the winning spot-kick for France as they beat Nigeria to reach the semi-finals after a 0-0 draw as the African side fell at the quarter-final stage for the second tournament running.
Ghoutia Karchouni almost punished the Flamingos early on when they fell asleep during a short corner, but Gift Andy saved her curling shot. Aminat Yakubu then reminded France that they must stay on their toes, bursting down the right to cross, but it was well cut out.
A touch of brilliance almost brought Cousin the opener, her neat touch nutmegging Victoria Adelomon, but she could only fire straight at Andy. Griedge Mbock Bathy then missed a free header at the back post from Lea Declercq’s corner with Andy stranded.
Nigeria looked dangerous on the break but France were controlling possession and the play. Kadidiatou Diani was next to test Andy, with the No9’s header from Declercq’s cross sending her sprawling to her right.
It was Nigeria in fact who had the ball in the net first, with their No9 Yakubu heading between Romane Bruneau’s legs, but Chinwendu Ihezuo had long been flagged offside.
Ihezuo was gifted a golden chance on the stroke of half-time though. The prolific forward latched onto Mbock Bathy’s weak back-pass but Bruneau stood tall and saved well.
The pendulum swung marginally in Nigeria’s favour after the break, withholding possession much better, though chances remained scarce.
Declercq eventually jarred what had become a stagnant game back into life, charging into the Nigerian area and crashing a fierce drive off the underside of the bar. It was then cleared, but her corner found the head Mbock Bathy who headed narrowly wide for a second time.
The night took a turn against Nigeria when captain Adielomon received only the second red card of the tournament for her second yellow of the night. Her stand-in Halimatu Ayinde almost snatched the game on 84 minutes though, but she slid her shot into the side-netting when baring down on Bruneau's goal.
With time up, Sandie Toletti, Ugochi Emenayo and Declercq exchanged efforts before Sarah Nnodim put horribly wide. It fell to Romanelli to tuck home the winner.
"France read us very well. We had our strategies, but they did not pay off. Sometimes football is like that. I am not happy, I have taken my team twice to the World Cup and we lost twice in the quarter-finals. I am not happy at all." Peter Dedevbo, Nigeria coach