Women's Euros: Formidable! France answer Diacre doubters with record-breaking opening win over Italy

·3-min read

Being France, there is still time for a crisis to develop, for a rotten egg to slip into the souffle mixture, or a contretemps to blow up into full-blown guerre civile.

But for now, after dismissing Italy in brutal fashion in their Women's Euro 2022 opener, Les Bleues are looking simply magnifique.

When coach Corinne Diacre left Amandine Henry and Eugenie Le Sommer out of her Euros squad, deciding France could cope without the Champions League final player of the match and the national team's record goalscorer, it was a calculated act of coaching courage that had the potential to backfire spectacularly.

And it still might, because Sunday evening's 5-1 drubbing in Rotherham taught us only so much: on the front foot, against opponents whose defending leaves a lot to be desired, they can fill their boots.

Diacre felt Henry and Le Sommer were not ideal fits for this team, and the coach whose controversy-packed five-year reign makes her a divisive figure staked her reputation on it.

France, like this tournament's hosts, England, have yet to win a major tournament, but they have been fancied more often than the Lionesses to come away with a trophy and repeatedly failed to deliver on expectations.

They have typically run into strong opposition and not had quite enough. Italy have a long way to come before they fall into the 'strong opposition' category, with the Azzurre recklessly obliging in this Group D landslide at the New York Stadium.

France had set two Women's Euros records by half-time, becoming the first team to score five goals before the break, with Grace Geyoro the first player to hit a first-half hat-trick.

Italy had won their opening match at just two of their previous 11 Women's Euros (D4 L5). Hopes of a third such victory were already over as they retreated for dressing-room respite. They have now lost 11 of their past 16 games at the Euros (W4 D1).

It might have been a different story if Barbara Bonansea buried an early chance, but she was denied by the legs of France goalkeeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin, and a rout ensued.

Kadidiatou Diani, a menace on the right, sent over a low centre that was feebly dealt with by Italy, allowing Geyoro a ninth-minute tap-in, and the second French goal was also about threat from the flanks, with Sakina Karchaoui racing down the left before her deflected cross was palmed into the path of a grateful Marie-Antoinette Katoto by Italy goalkeeper Laura Giuliani.

Twelve minutes in, France were 2-0 up and rampant. Delphine Cascarino hit a delightful third from the edge of the box, Geyoro rounded Giuliani for a fourth and added number five in the 45th minute, disrupting Italian possession herself before taking a return ball from Sandie Toletti and smashing home.

Unable to halt Geyoro by fair means, Italy elected for another approach after the break as captain Sara Gama hacked down the forward with a messy challenge on the left. Shown a red card initially, it was reduced to yellow after a VAR check, which probably saved Italy from greater humiliation.

They got a goal back through Martina Piemonte's neat header, too, France becoming briefly ragged. The French might need to win this tournament, or at least reach the July 31 final at Wembley, for Diacre's big decisions to be justified, so here was a just a glimpse of fragility. A fifth successive win in European Championship openers was never in doubt.

One more number felt significant on this warm Yorkshire night. The crowd of 8,541 drew warm applause around this tidy lower-league ground, and rightly so. When these teams met in the group stage of Euro 2005, also hosted by England, only 957 turned out at Preston's Deepdale ground to witness the occasion.

The women's game is changing, and perhaps the same might be said for France.

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