Sports

Jamaica holds France to a 0-0 draw in a surprising Women’s World Cup opener

Hervé Renard knows all about World Cup shocks. He also knows an early setback can be overcome in international soccer.

With that in mind, the France coach was not unduly concerned by his team’s 0-0 with Jamaica on Sunday, which was one of the biggest surprises so far at the Women’s World Cup.

Renard led Saudi Arabia to a famous win against Argentina at the men’s World Cup in Qatar last year, before Lionel Messi’s team rebounded and went on to lift the trophy for their country.

“I’ve already won competitions after drawing my first two games,” said the two-time Africa Cup of Nations-winning coach. “Let’s talk about the World Cup 2022. I don’t think that we should be getting ahead of ourselves.

“There are lots of people, lots of teams that start with the fanfare and are not there come the final and others are maybe slow to get out of the starting blocks.”

While there is no need for France to panic, this was still an unexpected result for the fifth-ranked team in the world and one of the tournament favorites.

By contrast Jamaica is ranked 43rd and entered the tournament co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand having lost all of its games at its World Cup debut in 2019 with a goal difference of -11.

“We always tell our players just don’t worry about the rankings,” said Jamaica coach Lorne Donaldson, who declared his country’s first point ever in the competition as its greatest achievement in soccer.

I think it is the No. 1 result I have seen men or women,” he said. “I would put it there. If you go by the rankings you would say that result on this stage has to be No. 1.”

Jamaica’s players ran onto the field after the final whistle as if they’d been crowned world champions. It would have been a very different story had Kadidiatou Diani’s 90th-minute header not struck the bar.

In a game of few chances, Diani had France’s best opportunities to score a winner, but could not find a breakthrough at the Sydney Football Stadium.

She forced a save from Jamaica goalkeeper Rebecca Spencer in the first half and saw another effort deflected wide.

Another header in the second half also went wide of the target before her late effort came back off the bar.

The French were expected to be too strong for Jamaica, but favorites have not had everything their own way so far in the tournament. The 2019 quarterfinalists were the latest to struggle against an underdog.

Australia needed a penalty to get a 1-0 win against Ireland, while European champion England also needed a spot kick to overcome Haiti 1-0. Nigeria held Olympic champion Canada 0-0.

“The French are used to having the upper hand during the opening games, but this is something that is going to change because things are getting a lot closer,” Renard said. “We need to keep our heads up high and we need to keep our confidence high.”

Jamaica did well to disrupt a France team that struggled to put together fluid moves.

In one of France’s few moments of quality in the first half, Diani saw a low effort bundled around the post by Spencer. From the resulting corner, Wendie Renard headed over from close range.

Kadidiatou was fractions away from giving France a halftime lead when firing from the edge of the area. Chantelle Swaby managed to get something in the way of the shot, which deflected narrowly wide with the keeper beaten.

After seeing another header go wide after the break, Kadidiatou almost came up with the decisive moment when hitting the bar.

On an otherwise joyous night for Jamaica, it may come to regret the red card for star forward Khadija Shaw, who will be suspended for the next game.

WHAT’S NEXT

France plays Brazil in Brisbane on Saturday. Jamaica travels to Perth where it will face Panama.

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