France began their 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup™ campaign in winning fashion but were made to work hard by a competitive Nigeria, who eventually succumbed to a lone Marie-Laure Delie strike just after the interval.
France started strongly with left-sided midfielder Louisa Necib the initiator of many attacking forays for the Europeans, with the scenario played out numerous times during the first half. Just past the quarter-hour mark came the first genuine attempt on goal for Germany 2011, as combative midfielder Elise Bussaglia let fly from 25 metres to bring the best out of goalkeeper Precious Dede.
Nigeria were not prepared to let the momentum remain with France, and the Super Falcons earned three consecutive corners to provide Berangere Sapowicz in the French goal with some anxious moments. Indeed it was Nigeria who had the best opening of the first half but Desiree Oparanozie was unable to convert with only Sapowicz to beat. The opening half concluded with Necib’s rasping drive from distance parried for a corner by Dede in a carbon copy of Bussaglia’s earlier effort.
The decisive moment of the match came early in the second half as Delie claimed the honour of scoring the first goal at Germany 2011, with the striker converting from close range after Nigeria failed to deal with Eugenie Le Sommer's right-sided cross.
Despite the goal the second half was largely a midfield battle with goalscoring opportunities at a premium. France were ultimately relatively comfortable winners despite being made to work hard in the afternoon heat at Sinsheim’s Rhein-Neckar-Arena. The 1-0 scoreline enough for France to collect their first win since the group stage at USA 2003, when Les Bleus last appeared at the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The result extends Nigeria’s winless streak to eight matches dating back to 1999. The Super Eagles now face the daunting task of trying to take something from Thursday’s meeting with Germany to keep alive their realistic hopes of progressing.
Player of the match: Louisa Necib