For the first time, France won all three of its group stage matches at the Women’s World Cup, but it took a very controversial video assistant referee decision to make it happen.
France beat Nigeria, 1-0, with towering centerback Wendie Renard scoring the game-winning-goal in the 79th minute, on her second attempt at a penalty kick. Renard missed the first penalty kick but was bailed out after Nigeria goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie was ruled to have moved ahead of the goal-line, leading to a second penalty kick.
It was the best France could muster all night against the resolute and stingy defensive discipline of Nigeria, which defended well as a unit and kept France from truly putting chances on goal until late in the match.
France had a couple of attacking chances through the first 70 minute shots of the match, but the game didn’t really kick off until the 72nd minute. On a cross into the box from the left, France’s Viviane Asseyi attempted to control the ball but was upended by Nigeria’s Ngozi Eberi. Referee Melissa Borjas didn’t make a call at first, instead listening to her assistants and the VAR. Eventually, she was persuaded to have a second look, and determined a foul had taken place, leading to a penalty. Eberi was also shown a red card after a second yellow, reducing Nigeria to 10.
After the remonstrations from Nigeria ended, Renard stepped up to the spot and dragged her shot off the left post and wide. However, moments later, Borjas was again heading to the VAR to take a look at Nnadozie coming off her line too early. It appeared she had, by just a foot, and Renard didn’t miss on the second attempt.
With the win, France secures first place in Group A and will face a third-place team from groups C, D, or E. With the defeat, Nigeria must hope for favorable score lines from other groups as they attempt to earn a third-place berth into the knockout round.