ANTONIO LAMORTE / AIPS in DEVENTER*: Favourites England needed more even more commitment and determination than manager Mark Sampson had thought to beat France 1-0 and reach the semi-finals of UEFA Women’s EURO 2017.
The fifth goal in these finals by Jodie Taylor was decisive but only after the most cohesive France performance here put England in their greatest difficulty in the Netherlands yet.
The Stadion De Adelaarshorst also saw England end a jinx: their last win against France had been back in 1974.
Before the match Sampson had said: “We do not need to be our very best to win.” Yet, to be on the safe side, he reverted to his original starting lin-up after the 10 changes of the third Group D game against Portugal.
French coach Olivier Echouafni, in contrast, had been forced into changes by the suspensions of defenders Wendy Renard and Eve Perisset. He also opted for a 4-4-2 instead of the 4-3-2-1 in the previous match against Switzerland.
In the first half England were unable to deploy the face which saw them score 10 goals in the group stage. French pressure denied England the space and the time to take the right decision in and around the penalty box.
France tried to open gaps in the English defence with counter-attacks. In this way Marie-Laure Delie wasted an occasion from close range in the 11th minute of a goalless first half.
A header by Eugénie Le Sommer was the first chance of the second half but the more resourceful French attitude was upset in the 53rd minute. Lucy Bronze delivered a golden assist to Jodie Taylor after recovering the ball in the midfield.
An angled close-range shot delivered the Arsenal forward’s fifth goal of the competition and confirmed her as top striker.
France responded and efforts from Grace Geyoro and M’Bock Bathy were foiled by Bronze and by goalkeeper Karen Bardsley – though at the cost of injury which meant her substitution by Siobahn Chamberlain.
France tried to pressure the English goal with free-kicks and corners in the closing minutes and, in the 93rd minute, Emilie Thomis wasted an occasion from close range.
Finally, the athletic superiority and the experience of England denied Les Bleues the draw in a match which was not as spectacular as expected.
The French experience in the Netherlands finished with the ovation of their supporters in the stadium.
As for England, they confirmed themselves as a mature team for the obtaining victory. On Thursday they face the Netherlands in Enschede in a match expected to be one of the best of the competition.
** AIPS is the international sports journalists’ association with 10,000 members worldwide. and is currently undertaking a Young Reporters course in the Netherlands in co-operation with UEFA, More information: www.AIPSmedia.com