SINSHEIM (Germany) (AFP) - France opened their 2011 women's World Cup with a hard-earned 1-0 victory over Nigeria here Sunday thanks to Marie-Laure Delie's goal in a crucial Group A encounter.
A near sell-out crowd of 25,475 in Sinsheim saw a number of good chances but no goals until Delie's goal in the 56th minute gave France three points in the group with Nigeria remaining on zero.
"It is our first match and we have three points. They are in our pockets and nobody can take them away," said France coach Bruno Bini. "Tactically we were a little bit better than them and that allowed us to win the game.
"Unfortunately it's one of those things in football. That's why it's a game. We had it in the hand and suddenly it slipped off," said Nigeria coach Ngozi Uche. The game at Rhein Neckar Arena was considered a near must-win for both sides with two-time reigning champions and hosts Germany must likely to advance as the other team from Group A to the quarter-finals.
France were the dominating team right from the start, especially on the left side through Louisa Necib - for whom the Nigerians had no answer. "There are not many players like her. She is just an artist. When I am cold and she gets the ball I am warm again. She is like a ray of sunshine," Bini said about player of the match Necib.
The French were unable to create a real chance though until Elise Bussaglia's long blast at the 17-minute mark, which Nigeria keeper Precious Dede did a fine job fending away.