Colombia Narrowly and France Easily Join the Quarterfinals

On the far side of the field, Catalina Usme tore away, sprinting toward the fans. Her Colombia teammates followed in her wake, eating up the ground in the rush to close the distance, to catch her to celebrate the goal that would soon take the country past Jamaica and into the first Women’s World Cup quarterfinal in Colombia’s history.

Linda Caicedo was not among their number. When Usme had coolly converted Ana María Gúzman’s cross to give Colombia the lead, she had turned the other way, toward the coaching area and the substitutes’ bench. She had tensed her arms, hanging low by her sides, clenched her fists, and roared: an expression not of joy or delirium but sheer, unbridled relief, the sound of something being released.

Making it to midnight was always going to be a tall order for the Women’s World Cup’s last Cinderella team, Morocco. It turns out its tournament was over, for all intents and purposes, by 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday in Adelaide, Australia. France had the final round-of-16 game well in hand by then, after goals by Kadidiatou Diani, Kenza Dali and Eugénie Le Sommer in the game’s first 23 minutes. Morocco gave it a go after that, eventually losing by 4-0, but its World Cup was effectively over after three early defensive lapses led to three early goals.

Diani had a hand in all three of France’s goals in the first half, scoring the first and creating the other two. She now has four goals in the World Cup. Le Sommer has three. Le Sommer added her second goal, and France’s fourth, in the 70th minute, and France could have had even more on a night when they saw more open chances than Morocco did chances of any kind.

All four French goals came from players who were unmarked, a sign that while Morocco had made great strides in its first World Cup — recording its first goals, its first wins and its first trip to the knockouts — it still has a lot to learn if it hopes to run with the world’s best teams regularly over 90 minutes. The victory was the latest sign of a tournament snapping back into form after a run of surprises, upsets and parity. Seven of the eight quarterfinalists won their first-round groups, and the one that did not — Spain — was on everyone’s list of title contenders. Five of the eight games were decided by at least two goals, perhaps a sign that the contenders that remain are rounding into top form just in time.

France, now humming after a slow start with 10 goals in its past two games, will face Australia, now refreshed by the return of Sam Kerr, on Saturday. With England facing Colombia in the other game on this side of the knockout-round bracket, a first-time World Cup finalist is assured.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *