#WorldCupAtHome: Brazil push Les Bleues to the limit

  • The #WorldCupAtHome continues with France-Brazil from 2019

  • Les Bleues, pre-match favourites, required extra time to advance

  • The high-octane encounter kept fans in Le Havre on the edge of their seats

In their first true test of the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™ – an exciting-looking last-16 clash with Brazil – the hosts struggled to overcome a combative Seleçao side spearheaded by a pair of legendary veterans, Cristiane and Marta. It was not until extra time that French captain Amandine Henry finally produced the winning goal that booked her team’s spot in the quarter-finals.

Match facts

France 2-1 (a.e.t.) Brazil 23 June 2019 Stade Oceane, Le Havre (France)

Goals: France: Gauvin (52'), Henry (107') Brazil: Thaisa (63')

Line-ups: France: Sarah Bouhaddi; Marion Torrent (Eve Perisset, 109'), Griedge Mbock Bathy, Wendie Renard, Amel Majri (Sakina Karchaoui, 118'); Kadidiatou Diani, Amandine Henry ©, Elise Bussaglia, Viviane Asseyi (Gaetane Thiney, 81'); Valerie Gauvin (Delphine Cascarino, 90'+3'), Eugenie Le Sommer Brazil: Barbara; Leticia Santos (Poliana, 89'), Kathellen, Monica, Tamires; Formiga (Andressinha, 75'), Thaisa, Marta ©; Ludmila (Beatriz, 71'), Cristiane (Geyse, 96'), Debinha

The stakes

France were highly fancied before the game, partly because they were playing in Le Havre’s Stade Oceane, where they had never lost and where they had impressively defeated USA 3-1 in a tune-up match prior to the tournament. In addition, Les Bleues had just won all three of their group encounters, scoring seven goals and conceding just one.

The Brazilians, meanwhile, had qualified for the Round of 16 as one of the best third-placed teams, after beating Italy and Jamaica but losing to Australia in a memorable match in which they led 2-0 and eventually lost 3-2.

The two teams had already met once before at the Women’s World Cup, in a 2003 group-stage duel in Washington that finished 1-1. The result helped Brazil to advance to the quarter-finals, while eliminating France.

LE HAVRE, FRANCE - JUNE 23: Amandine Henry of France is put under pressure by Marta of Brazil during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Round Of 16 match between France and Brazil at Stade Oceane on June 23, 2019 in Le Havre, France. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)

The match

Bouhaddi kept busy: France goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi had enjoyed a relatively stress-free group phase, but this fixture proved to be a different story altogether. The Lyon custodian was called into action on numerous occasions by an attack-minded Brazil team; despite her best efforts, typified by an outstanding fingertip save that deflected Cristiane’s goal-bound header onto the bar in the 55th minute, she was forced to pick the ball out of the net after Thaisa struck home a low drive in the 63rd minute.

Old heads impress: Marta (33), with 21 Women’s World Cup matches under her belt, and Cristiane (34), who had racked up 19, were the two most experienced players on the pitch in Le Havre. And they set about living up to that status from the outset, moving the ball around with precision, making great runs, and pressing their opponents effectively. This lasted until around the 70-minute mark, when the physical exertion started to take its toll and France, boosted by the introduction of substitute Gaetane Thiney, began to gain the upper hand.

Henry steers France through (again): In 2006, Thierry Henry met Zinedine Zidane’s free-kick on the volley to send France into the FIFA World Cup™ semi-finals and eliminate Brazil. This time around, 13 years later, Amel Majri swung in a free kick from the right flank for another Henry, Amandine, who expertly propelled the French into the next round of the Women’s World Cup with a cushioned left-foot volley.

The star

While Valerie Gauvin and Henry took centre-stage with their goals, Griedge Mbock put in a particularly decisive performance in defence. In the 105th minute, with France dominating proceedings, Debinha broke clear down the left, cut inside, and slipped the ball under the diving Bouhaddi. Just as it appeared Brazil must surely level the score and silence the home crowd, Mbock raced back and produced a crucial, last-gasp goal-line clearance.

Griedge Mbock vs Brazil at the Women's World Cup 2019

What they said

“It’s a fantastic result. It was a difficult game, like all international matches, and an amazing one to play in, due to the excitement, the support from the fans, the shared emotions, the suffocating heat and the incredible pressure – it’s matches like these that we love, and that become part of our rich footballing history.” Gaetane Thiney, France midfielder

“It’s a special moment, and we should remember it. What I mean by that is we should appreciate the result for what it is. We're asking for support, but we should savour what we’ve achieved. Today we’re still smiling and that’s fundamental. You have to cry at the beginning so you can smile at the end.” Marta, Brazil captain

“The fans played their part – they backed us until the very end, and at moments where we were struggling. We dedicate this result to them. Now we’ll need to take time to recover, because we gave our all out there tonight.” Wendie Renard, France defender

What happened next?

After successfully negotiating this Brazilian hurdle, Les Bleues locked horns with reigning world champions USA, in a clash that would not have looked out of place in the Final. A Megan Rapinoe brace took the Stars and Stripes one step closer to another global crown and ensured that France would exit the tournament at the same stage as in 2015.