France were held 0-0 by Jamaica’s Reggae Girlz, making a frustrating start to their Women’s World Cup campaign on Sunday. Meanwhile, Sweden and the Netherlands both won by slender margins.
France were widely expected to advance to the last 16 as Group F winners of the tournament in Australia and New Zealand but after this stalemate to open their title bid that is now in doubt.
France have never lifted the World Cup despite the strength of their women’s domestic league and were defied by a battling Jamaica in the Sydney rain in front of nearly 40,000.
Favourites along with holders the United States and England, France hit the woodwork late on and had more possession and chances, but Jamaica refused to fold.
Herve Renard’s team was hampered by injuries and kicked off without regular defenders Elisa De Almeida and Selma Bacha, who were ruled out but are expected to be fit to play Brazil on 29 July.
The Jamaicans only made their Women’s World Cup debut in the previous edition in 2019 and lost all three games, so this point was a precious first in the competition for them.
The only sour note was the dismissal in injury time of star striker Khadija Shaw for a second yellow card. She will miss their second game of the tournament against Panama as a result.
The Reggae Girlz as they’re known, ranked 43 in the world to France’s five, celebrated wildly at the final whistle and defender Deneisha Blackwood was paraded in the air.
“You’re playing a team like France who are just fantastic. I mean, just looking at the rankings, you would say that result on this stage has to be number one,” Jamaica coach Lorne Donaldson said.
Elsewhere, in the first match of day four, Sweden were given a scare by South Africa before winning 2-1.
The third-ranked Swedes fought back from a goal down and conjured up the winner in the 90th minute through Arsenal defender Amanda Ilestedt, much to the relief of their fans in miserably wet conditions in Wellington.
A goal early in the second half by Hildah Magaia — in which she suffered a match-ending injury – had given South Africa hope of an upset in front of some 18,000 spectators.
But that was soon cancelled out by Barcelona star Fridolina Rolfo before Ilestedt’s late intervention, heading home from close range for a hard-fought victory.
The Dutch, losers 2-0 to the United States in the final four years ago, had less trouble against debutants Portugal in the New Zealand city of Dunedin.
Defender Stefanie van der Gragt scored with a powerful header on 13 minutes with what turned out to be the winner.
Portugal’s first shot of the game finally arrived in the last 10 minutes but the Dutch were ultimately fairly comfortable winners.
Two-times former champions Germany enter the fray on Monday when they face World Cup debutants Morocco, while Brazil play Panama and Italy face Argentina.
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