AIPS in BREDA*: France demonstrated remarkable physical and mental powers at UEFA Women’s EURO 2017 to recover from a goal down and reach the quarter-finals, despite playing most of their showdown against Swizterland with 10 players.
Bleues not only had defender Eve Perisset sent off after 17 minutes but immediately conceded a goal to Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic. Yet they never gave up in their eventually successful pursuit of the single goal and point they needed to secure second place in Group C behind Austria.
Yet France had to battle right through until the 76th minute before Camille Abily produced the equaliser which sent the Swiss home instead.
Before the warm-ups a member of the Swiss coaching staff had created a heart design out of the spare footballs on the pitch but it was broken hearts for Switzerland at the final whistle.
Swiss goalkeeper Gaelle Thalmann, who collected a dramatic head injury in the previous game with Iceland, retained the role and proved her recovery with a fine save in the 15th minute from Claire Lavogez.
In attack the Swiss worked hard to punish every minor mistake and France were generous enough to provide one.
Perisset, as the last defender, pulled down Ramona Bachmann to prevent the lone Swiss striker breaking clear and was penalised with a red card from Hungarian referee Katalin Kulchar.
Switzerland made the free-kick count as Martina Moser’s delivery was headed home by Crnogorcevic.
France, despite the numerical inferiority, tried hard to respond but Thalmann proved as solid as a wall. Towards the end of the first half, Switzerland were also unpicking their opponents’ game and making them nervous.
High pressing and tactical fouls from the Swiss prevented France from creating much danger and five minutes before the interval Switzerland came close to doubling the score, only for goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi to come to the rescue for Les Blueues.
Switzerland started the second half deep in the defence trying to hold their lead and with only Bachmann working brilliantly on the counterattack.
However, even she could not pierce the French defence without support.
France faced problems of their own in and around the Swiss penalty box and missed opportunities to equalise, one by one. Thus the second half grew more aggressive as the Swiss tried every way they could to stop their opponents reaching the penalty area.
Eventually, however, one free-kick too many turned out to be decisive with Abily’s angled effort deceiving Thalmann.
The equaliser guaranteed France their qualification for the quarter-finals in second place behind Austria who beat Iceland, simultaneously, by 3-0.
** AIPS is the international sports journalists’ association with 10,000 members worldwide and which is currently running a Young Reporters project in the Netherlands with the cooperation and support of European federation UEFA. More information at www.AIPSmedia.com