Goals from the defensive duo of Laura Georges and Wendie Renard have taken France through to the semi-finals of London 2012 with a 2-1 win over Sweden at Glasgow’s Hampden Park. Bruno Bini’s side were forced to come from behind against a team they had lost to in the FIFA Women’s World Cup third-place play-off last year, and their spirited fightback set up a mouth-watering Wembley meeting with Japan.
This was a quarter-final that lived up to its pre-match billing, with both sides committed to attack and showing why they’re among the leading powers in women’s football. The tone for an incident-packed first half was set inside the opening few seconds, when Lisa Dahlkvist spotted Sarah Bouhaddi slightly off her line and attempting to score from the halfway line. The ball ended up well wide of the right-hand post, but it was an early statement of intent from the Swedes, and they followed it up by taking the lead after just 17 minutes.
Nilla Fischer wouldn’t have cared, but there was an undeniable element of luck to the goal, with the Scandinavians’ captain misjudging the flight of a Marie Hammarstrom corner and still managing to send the ball looping into the net off her right shoulder. Sweden were just about worthy of their lead at this stage, and they might have added a second six minutes later but for a brilliant point-blank save from Sarah Bouhaddi, swooping low to her left to keep out a close-range downward header from the dangerous Dahlkvist.
Bouhaddi’s intervention also proved to be a turning point in the first half, which ended with France having turned a deficit into a one-goal lead. Their equaliser came after 29 minutes, when Hedvig Lindahl flapped at a deep, inswining corner from Louisa Necib, presenting Georges with a gift-wrapped opportunity to head home from six yards. This was symptomatic of both side’s difficulty in dealing with set pieces, and it was no surprise when Les Bleues took the lead from yet another dead ball situation. This time it was a floated Sandrine Soubeyrand free-kick which caused panic in the Swedes’ defence, with Georges winning the first ball to head across goal for Renard to blast home from five yards.
Sweden needed a response in the second half and they got one, with Linda Sembrandt heading just wide and Sara Thunebro testing Bouhaddi’s handling from 30 yards. However, the France keeper saved her best moment for the 72nd minute, when she produced a stunning save to tip away Fischer’s goal-bound volley after the midfielder had been played in on goal by Lotta Schelin. That was as close as the Swedes would come to finding an equaliser, and while they head for home, Les Bleues can begin looking forward to a trip down Wembley way.