FIFA Women's World Cup: Nigeria falls to France in opening duel


SINSHEIM, Germany (AP)—The Women’s World Cup opened its three-week showcase Sunday, with France beating Nigeria 1-0 amid the sounds of a brass band and a boisterous crowd of more than 25,000.

Marie-Laure Delie scored in the 56th minute at Rhein-Neckar-Arena for a French team that went undefeated in qualifying.

“We have three points in our pocket and no one can take them away from us,” France coach Bruno Bini said.

In Sunday’s other Group A game, host Germany plays Canada at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, the official opener to the 16-team tournament. Germany is the two-time defending champion and is looking to become the first nation to win three World Cup titles.

The tournament enjoyed an excellent curtain riser in Sinsheim. The crowd cheered both sides and a Nigerian brass band provided relentless rhythm under sunny skies, a stage most of the players had never experienced.

“We are not used to play in circumstances like this,” Delie said. “It is a real pleasure.”

The French dominated most of the game, with playmaker Louisa Necib limiting many of her moves to midfield rather than pressuring Nigeria’s defense upfield. The Olympique Lyon star was honored as Player of the Match.

“She is an artist,” Bini said. “She was working for the team.”

Oddly, France scored on one of Necib’s few errors. When Eugenie Le Sommer crossed from the right, Necib missed her shot, allowing Delie to take the ball in the center, control it and stab it home.

“The purpose of a striker is to score, and there you have it,” Delie said.

Earlier, France’s Gaetane Thiney hit the post from close range in the 18th minute.

French pressure forced Nigeria to rely on the counterattack, yet the Super Falcons often lacked the speed and skills to execute. When Desire Oparanozie did break through for one-on-one with goalie Berangere Sapowicz, the 17-year-old player’s shot was way wide.

Nigeria is the perennial African champion and has reached all five women’s World Cups. But all too often the team has failed to get out of the first round.