In Group D's evening match on 21 August in Moscow, France suffered all manner of problems overcoming a valiant Congolese before eventually ekeing a 1-0 win that sees Les Bleuettes through to the quarter-finals along with the USA.

If some observers had dismissed Congo DR's strong performance against the US as beginner's luck, the early stages of the Africans' encounter with France at the Torpedo Moscow stadium must have had them eating their words.

Cheered on by a small band of supporters making enough noise for 10,000, they set off at frantic pace, Tresorine Nzuzi sendng in a good early cross that Oliva Amani just failed to connect with in front of goal.

Before long, however, the French began to assume control of the match, although they were careless in the final third. Laure Boulleau, the left-sided dynamo, delivered a good cross for Marie-Laure Delie, but she blazed wide. The livewire  Elodie Thomis  broke clean through on three occasions, but although she eluded the keeper each time, her crosses failed to find a team-mate.

"We missed far too many clear-cut chances due to a lack of a coolness and nerve," was  Stephane Pilard's  post-match verdict. "We could easily have paid a very high price, which shows that we've still got a lot of work to do."

Thomis was at the heart of much that France did well, and on 42 minutes she broke through on the left side and offered a peach of a pass to Delie, who again shot wide. The pressure was rising and, from the resultant corner, Necib placed the ball on to the head of Henry, who needed no second invitation to bury a header past the stranded Congolese goalkeeper (1-0, 45').

The entire French contingent breathed a sigh of relief. 

A hatful of chances
After the interval, the French were equally enterprising, but even more profligate. On a counter-attack two minutes after the re-start, Delie fed Thomis alone in the middle, but the fleet-footed striker was again off-target. Ines Dhaou then fired in a good shot, Necib struck a half-volley, and Jessica Houara unleashed a bullet of a long-range shot, but Mamie Buazo was invariably in the right place.

"It was a really tough match for me, but I thought I did ok," said the Congolese keeper afterwards. "Having seen the five goals conceded by Argentina against the French, I promised myself that wouldn't happen to me."

The French had failed to put the match to bed and came very close to regretting it. On a rare breakaway, Yvonne Malembo sped away from her marker down the left and cut back a cross for Mify Zenga, whose goal-bound effort was well saved by Sarah Bouhaddi.

Fighting to stay in the tournament, the Congolese threw all their forces into battle, but in the end it was not enough. Neither Charmante Nsimba nor Arlette Mafuta, both late substitutes, were able to find a way past the French keeper.

So Congo go out with their heads held high, while France continue on their way. "Obviously, I'm really disappointed," declared the Congolese coach,  Poly Bonghanya . "But it's our first world tournament and we've come up against great teams like France. I would just have liked to cause them a few more problems than we did.

Pilard, meanwhile, was able to look forward to the next challenge: "It was a really hard game for us as Congo played well and we didn't really know how to negate their game plan. But we got the win we wanted in the end and, most importantly, an historic qualification for the quarter-finals, which is the main thing."

Player of the Match: MAMIE BUAZO
"The Congolese keeper thwarted a wide variety of threats, allowing her team to stay in the match. She didn't make any truly great saves but she came out when necessary and started off moves for her side, as well as putting the French forwards under pressure." Sylvie Beliveaux (CAN),  FIFA Technical Study Group .