A contract fulfilled without fireworks for the daughters of Corinne Deacon. Les Bleues struggled to dominate Belgium (2-1) on Thursday July 14 but they pocketed their ticket to the quarter-finals of the Euros with a lead, a success tarnished by the worrying injury of their star of attacks Marie-Antoinette Katoto. The early and grimacing exit of the serial scorer is a serious hitch in the plan of the France team, yet well executed from an arithmetic point of view. The next medical bulletins will be eagerly awaited concerning “MAK”, who returned on crutches after halftime.
In the meantime, Corinne Deacon’s squad have made life easier in this first round, with qualification and a first group place already secured before they even face Iceland next Monday, still in Rotherham. Les Bleues are not going to leave the small New York Stadium anytime soon (less than 8,200 spectators on Thursday) since they will pass their first capital test there, on July 23 in the quarterfinals, probably against Sweden, Olympic vice-champion, or the Netherlands, reigning European champions.
The level of adversity will certainly rise several notches, after the initial electrifying ride against Italy (5-1) and the much narrower success against Belgium, a deserving team despite their weaker pedigree. Among the good news, the French team can count on the explosiveness of their sides to blast the grouped blocks, with two pairs already very well established: Sakina Karchaoui and Delphine Cascarino on the left, Ève Perisset and Kadidiatou Diani on the right.
The diamond Diani shone again on Thursday with rides, dribbles and a precious presence in the area, as on the opening of the early score where his pricked header hit the mark on a cross from Karchaoui (6th, 1-0). The brilliance of the hot start soon faded, however, when Katoto’s momentum was broken on an innocuous offensive phase. The center-forward of PSG stopped running, displaying a grin of pain before leaving the field in great pain and limping.
“It doesn’t sound bad but she’s in pain anyway,” coach Corinne Deacon told TF1 at halftime. His striker, hit in the knee the day before in training, watched the rest of the match from the stand, crutches at hand. This twist of fate did not change the face of the match, to the advantage of the Blues, but they were still surprised on the first shot of the Red Flames, signed Janice Cayman (36th, 1-1).
The Belgian from OL played a bad trick on her club partners, leaving behind Griedge Mbock and getting the better of Wendie Renard in the box. The equalizer highlighted the friability of the tricolor rearguard, in sequence, a porosity already seen in the second half against Italy. Left on the bench four days earlier, to everyone’s surprise, Mbock did not play for long, however, because it was from his head that the release came (41st, 2-1) after a strong cross from Clara Matéo , the other player to have earned her starting stripes on Thursday.
All smiles, the OL central defender came to celebrate her 8th international goal with Aïssatou Tounkara, her great friend and competitor, who had stolen her place against Italy. Ouleymata Sarr (68th) and especially Wendie Renard (90th) had the opportunity to offer a more flattering score to the Blues, but Katoto’s replacement missed her recovery then the captain completely missed her penalty.