June 24, 2019 / 3:39 AM / 3 months ago

Mental strength is France's best asset at World Cup

LE HAVRE, France (Reuters) - If France have been far from brilliant at the women’s World Cup so far, their 2-1 extra-time win over Brazil in the last-16 on Sunday clearly showed they have strong mental resources.

Soccer Football - Women's World Cup - Round of 16 - France v Brazil - Stade Oceane, Le Havre, France - June 23, 2019 France's Amandine Henry, Wendie Renard and team mates applaud crowd at the end of the match REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

With a likely quarter-final clash against the United States looming, Les Bleues need to stay focused despite the relief of going through after a tough battle against Brazil.

“We have not reached our goal yet,” coach Corinne Diacre told a news conference. “I have to say I didn’t recognise my team tonight but we managed to qualify.”

France suffered a first setback when Valerie Gauvin’s goal was ruled out after a VAR review, but the Montpellier striker stayed composed and did open the scoring in the 52nd minute.

“It was disappointing in the moment but we managed to get back into the game,” Gauvin told reporters.

“We were not rattled by this or by the goal we conceded. We stayed together as a team,” she added referring to Thaisa’s equaliser for Brazil in the 63rd minute.

“We won this game with our heads,” added captain Amandine Henry, who scored the winning goal in the 107th minute.

France will, however, need to raise their game if they are to win their first World Cup.

“My players are not at their best level. Some are playing at 80% of their potential, some at 60-70%,” said Diacre.

That level was still a tad too much to handle for Brazil, who were nonetheless encouraged by Thaisa’s equaliser.

“The entire match was incredible,” said Brazil coach Vadao. “It was very balanced. I think we’ve played four very good matches at this tournament and (losing) is just part of football. But we made it difficult for France today.

“We equalised and had a chance to go ahead, but we were never going to boss the game for the entire match because these teams are the best in the world.

“There is a renewal taking place but, going forward, there shouldn’t be too many changes. Players like Marta and Cristiane should be playing for a few more years yet.”

Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris

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