Knowing avoiding defeat would secure their place in the knockout stages, Hervé Renard notably made changes to his French side at either end of the pitch, with Élisa De Almeida replacing captain Wendie Renard in central defence and Clara Matéo taking the place of Les Bleues’ now all-time leading goalscorer at a Women’s World Cup, Eugénie Le Sommer, in the final third.
Encountering France for their first-ever head-to-head contest, Renard’s opposite number, Ignacio Quintana, made three changes to the side that lost 1-0 to Jamaica with Hilary Jaén, Carmen Montenegro and Aldrith Quintero returning to the starting eleven.
PAN: Bailey, Cedeño, Natis, Pinzón, Baltrip-Reyes, Jaén; Salazar, Montenegro, Aldrith Quintero, Tanner; Cox
FRA: Peyraud-Magnin, Périsset, Lakrar, De Almeida, Cascarino; Bècho, Geyoro, Le Garrec, Bacha; Matéo, Diani
On the winning side only once across their last seven matches, already-eliminated Panama stunned a much-altered French outfit after only 68 seconds in Sydney, as Marta Cox unleashed a magnificent curling free-kick from well outside of the area that rocketed into the top corner for Las Canaleras’ first-ever goal at a FIFA Women’s World Cup. Already at risk of surrendering their unbeaten six-match Women’s World Cup group-stage record, France responded authoritatively to going behind, and were back on level terms in the 21st minute as Maëlle Lakrar headed home Clara Matéo’s expertly-executed delivery into the danger area despite Deysiré Salazar’s best attempts to deflect the ball off-target.
Unsurprisingly, Les Bleues turned the match on its head seven minutes later, as at the second time of asking, Paris Saint-Germain Féminine striker Kadidiatou Diani was eventually able to squeeze the ball into the back of the net via the underside of the crossbar and a defender on the goal-line, to give her nation the lead.
With half-time now on the horizon, Hervé Renard’s side took another step towards the knockout stages following an unneeded handball in the area from Panamanian defender Yomira Pinzón. Diani cooly stepped up to the penalty spot, sending Yenith Bailey in the wrong direction to begin the celebrations of being on the brink of celebrating her first-ever hat-trick on the international stage. To add insult to injury in the fifth minute of added-on time, France added a fourth with Léa Le Garrec’s inswinging cross into the box evading everyone before nestling into the far corner.
Set for a fourth successive reappearance in the knockout stages, France needed only seven minutes of the second half to set up the opportunity for a potential fifth goal, as Wendy Natis became the second Panama player to concede a penalty after being adjudged by a combination of VAR, the on-field monitor and referee Laura Fortunato, to have controlled the ball with her hand. With only one player under consideration to take the spot-kick, Diani stepped up again to confidently secure her hat-trick, and the match-ball, with a well-struck strike into the bottom corner.
With penalties the main course in Sydney, it was Panama’s turn to taste success on their footballing palates from twelve yards following Élisa De Almeida’s clumsily foul on Riley Tanner. Pinzón fired home at the second attempt, after her first effort was deemed to have been taken before the referee’s whistle was blown. However, that was not the end of Panama’s determined performance – as half-time substitute Lineth Cedeño instinctively headed home their third goal after Pinzón’s free-kick had struck the crossbar.
Nonetheless, there was still time within a staggering thirteen minutes of added-on time for Vicki Bècho to cap off a scintillating performance with an expertly-taken goal of her own, as France will meet the eventual runner-up of Group H in the knockout stages. Meanwhile, Panama will almost certainly depart their maiden Women’s World Cup in a spirited fashion despite losing all three of their group stage matches, after witnessing Marta Cox score potentially the Goal of the Tournament.