France overcome stubborn Belgium to win Group D


France secured their place in the knockouts with a 2-1 win against Belgium at the New York stadium.

The French looked to build on their emphatic 5-1 thrashing of Italy in their tournament opener but were giving a much tougher contest by a resilient Belgian outfit. Kadidiatou Diani opened the scoring for France when she peeled away from her marker to meet Sakina Karchaoui’s deep cross at the back post and head home.

But at the 15 minute mark, France suffered a big blow when Marie-Antoinette Katoto hobbled off the pitch with a knee injury.

Despite the loss, France continued to build up chances, the best of which was saved by Nicky Evrard, who pushed Diani’s close-range effort onto the post, denying the forward a second.

Then against the run of play, Tessa Wullaert placed a perfect pass into Janice Cayman, who poked it past Pauline Peyraud Magnin to draw Belgium level.

However, the score line was short-lived as defender Mbock Bathy headed Clara Matéo’s cross into the back of the net, reinstating France’s lead going into halftime.

In the second half, France continued to dominate possession and create chances, but Belgium stood firm defensively to stay in the match.

Late in the game, France were awarded a penalty after VAR adjudged that Amber Tysiak’s hand was in an unnatural position when blocking a shot from Grace Geyoro, and the 22-year-old defender was given a second yellow.

However, Wendie Renard had her penalty saved by Evrard. Nevertheless, another goal was not needed, and France finished the match as the group winner.

Despite the loss, the outcome itself is not so bad as they have ensured that they have the healthy goal difference advantage over Italy, and subsequently keep themselves within touching distance of qualification after Iceland and Italy drew, leaving the second spot all to play for in the next round of matches.

As for France, it’s a job well done, but the big question is whether their star player Katoto will be available for the knockout stages, or will they have to plough on without her?

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