Aussies look for Brazil bounce after France, Germany roll on
Australia will try to keep their Women's World Cup hopes alive when they face Brazil on Thursday after big-hitters France and Germany ground their way towards the last 16 with narrow wins.
The Matildas fell to a shock 2-1 defeat to Italy in their opening Group C match and dare not lose against Brazil in Montpellier (kick-off 6pm) with criticism of coach Ante Milicic ringing in their ears.
Milicic, who has been in charge for six months, was slammed back home for his gung-ho tactics that allowed Italy to attack behind a high defensive line.
In the aftermath he and forward Caitlin Foord said they would not change their style, which could prove risky against a Brazil side that impressed in a 3-0 hammering of Jamaica with Cristiane scoring a hat-trick.
Brazil are level on three points with Italy, who play Jamaica on Friday, and a defeat for the pre-tournament dark horses Australia would put them at risk of being knocked out or having to face the winner of either Group A or B if they squeeze through as one of the four best third-placed finishers.
That could mean a clash with either France or Germany, who both took control of their groups with hard-fought wins over Norway and Spain respectively on Wednesday.
Le Sommer rescues Renard
Eugenie Le Sommer fired hosts France to the top of Group A from the penalty spot with 18 minutes left in Nice.
The Lyon star's second goal of the tournament put France on a perfect six points - three clear of Norway and Nigeria - and saved the blushes of her club teammate Wendie Renard, who had cancelled out Valerie Gauvin's 46th-minute opener for Les Bleues with a barely-believable own goal.
Renard, whose height and power had led to Norway using a tall press officer to simulate her presence in the area for set-pieces in training, was distraught after tapping Isabell Herlovsen's cross into her own net under no pressure.
"I made a big mistake, scoring a goal against my own team, unfortunately for me and unfortunately for my team," Renard told broadcaster Canal+.
"We didn't let our heads drop... and we were rewarded with the penalty."
Germany virtually assured themselves of missing a clash with rampant holders United States in the last 16 after brushing off the absence of star player Dzsenifer Marozsan to beat Spain 1-0 and take control of Group B.
Marozsan will miss at least the final Group B match against South Africa after breaking her toe in her side's opening 1-0 win over China.
Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Sara Daebritz made Germany strong favourites to top the group by pouncing three minutes before the break ahead of dithering Spain defender Marta Torrejon, who failed to clear after goalkeeper Sandra Panos saved Alexandra Popp's header.
The Germans are three points clear of Spain and a point against South Africa on Monday will guarantee they top Group B and avoid a potential clash with title holders USA.
Asked by reporters if watching the USA dismantle Thailand 13-0 on Tuesday in their opening match had been "extra motivation" to finish top, coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg smiled: "Both teams knew they didn't want play the winners of Group F."
Second-placed Spain, who were wasteful despite dominating possession and were left to rue Nahikari Garcia slicing wide when clean through in the 14th minute, should still progress but face a trickier test against China on Monday.
China face Group B rivals South Africa in Paris on Thursday (1900 GMT) with both looking for their first points.