SYDNEY: France’s hopes of a winning start to their Women’s World Cup campaign were thwarted by a hardworking Jamaican side in a 0-0 draw in the opening Group F clash at Sydney Football Stadium today.
The French, semifinalists at last year’s European Championship, were unable to get their fluent passing game going as the Jamaicans hassled and harried them to earn their first World Cup point after three defeats in their 2019 debut.
Forward Kadidiatou Diani almost clinched the winner for France in the 90th minute but her powerful header hit the bar then the post before bouncing out to the delight of the Jamaicans in the crowd of nearly 40,000.
Fifth-ranked France take on Brazil in the match that was expected to decide Group F in Brisbane on Saturday, while Jamaica will face Panama in Perth later the same day without striker Khadija Shaw, who was dismissed in stoppage-time.
It looked like the game might be robbed of its two biggest names when France skipper Wendie Renard and Shaw clashed heads in the opening few minutes.
Both returned to the pitch after brief medical attention, however, and Shaw was soon causing the French plenty of problems with her direct running and physicality.
France were struggling to get their passing game going because of Jamaica’s hard press and the Reggae Girlz had the better of the early exchanges.
The French put together the first move of any quality in the 36th minute with forward Diani set free to draw a save out of Jamaica goalkeeper Rebecca Spencer, who was again at full stretch to deny Renard at the ensuing corner.
Shaw hammered a freekick wide of the post in the 42nd minute in Jamaica’s best chance of the first half and a deflected Diani effort flashed wide in stoppage-time before the break.
France gradually imposed themselves on the game in the second half and Diani and midfielder Sandie Toletti both had chances before the hour mark but neither bothered Spencer.
Diani steered another header wide in the 66th minute and Eugenie Le Sommer drew another save out of Spencer 10 minutes later as the rain cascaded down on the Sydney Football Stadium.
Outstanding leftback Deneisha Blackwood led the way as Jamaica kept to their task, however, and held on as the French lofted cross after cross into their box in a frenetic finish.
Shaw, who had been a constant thorn in France’s side, was sent off for a tackle on Renard deep in the France half, her second yellow card offence of the match.