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France, a potential opponent for England in the knock out stages of the World Cup, finished their warm up matches on Saturday evening with a morale boosting 7-0 victory over their Belgian neighbours in Calais.
With a dozen members of the Champions League winners Olympique Lyonnais in their squad, Les Bleues gave an exciting display of attacking play and could have reached double figures but for some wasteful finishing against a side which had held them to a 2-1 scoreline three days earlier.
France attacked at will from the first minute and had already missed an open goal before Marie Laure Delie converted a chance after Camille Abily had hit the post in the 13th minute. The Montpellier forward notched a first half hat-trick and has the unusual record of 21 international goals in 20 appearances but with only five matches as a starting player. Abily added the second with a half volley from the edge of the area after a corner on 18 minutes. Delie increased the lead with two more quality finishes on 39 and 41 minutes, in stark contrast to fellow forward Gaetane Thiney who squandered two more excellent openings to keep the interval lead to four.
Wholesale changes on both sides after the break did little to change the flow of the match. Replacement wing players Elodie Thomis and Eugenie Le Sommer are both Champions League winners and both ran through the Belgian defence repeatedly. Le Sommer on the left seemed determined to score and missed setting up better placed team mates whilst Thomis sent over a series of tempting crosses. Ironically, the first time Thomis cut in and shot the ball evaded Sophie Van Houtven in the Belgian goal at her near post for a fifth on the hour.
The imperious Louisa Necib, who delighted the 4000 crowd with her tricks, added a sixth on 68 minutes with the aid of a big deflection and a referees assistant spotting the ball crossing the line. Substitute Sandrine Bretigny added a seventh on 70 minutes and only a fine series of saves by Van Houtven kept the score down in the final 20 minutes. The visitors were denied a consolation in added time by sub goalkeeper Celine Deville tipping a lob by Kristien Elsen on to the bar and over but this had been their only effort of the match.
Whether this match will have prepared the French team for their difficult group matches against Nigeria, Canada and holders and hosts Germany is debatable. However, coach Bruno Bini was able to give eighteen outfield players and two keepers some match practice and gain a fine result. With France's group lined up for quarter finals against England's qualifying group, a cross Channel clash is on the cards.
The French team leave for Gemany on Wednesday and their opening match is at Sinsheim on Sunday against Nigeria.
France: Berangere Sapowicz (sub Celine Deville 45mins), Corine Franco (sub Laure Lepailleur 41mins), Laura Georges (sub Sabrina Viguier 58mins), Wendie Renard (sub Ophelle Meilleroux 70mins), Sonia Bompastor (sub Laure Boulleau 58mins), Sandrine Soubeyrand (sub Caroline Pizzala 70mins), Elise Bussaglia (sub Eugenie Le Sommer 45mins), Camille Abily (sub Elodie Thomis 45mins), Gaetane Thineu, Louisa Necib, Marie-Laure Delie (sub Sandrine Bretigny 58mins).
Belgium: Sofie Van Houtven, Lore Van Schoenwinkel, Niki De Cock, Janice Cayman, Maud Coutereels, Audrey Demoustier (sub Cecile De Gernier 82mins), Elke Meers (sub Kristien Elsen 45mins), Lenie Onzia (sub Sophie Mannaert 82mins), Laurence Marchal (sub Lies Van Hamme 74mins), Aline Zeler, Cynthia Browaeys (sub Stephanie Van Gils 60mins).
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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