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ENGLAND QUALIFY FOR 2007 FIFA WORLD CUP FINALS
France 1 (Diguelman 88) England 1 (Lattaf og 64)
att: 19,215; at the Stade de la Route Lorient, Rennes
England have booked their place in the 2007 World Cup Finals in China on an emotional and nerve jangling night in Rennes, as they gained the draw they needed in order to win the group and qualify.
The Three Lions were not at their very best but produced a gritty performance in an action-packed match. Central defenders Mary Phillip and Anita Asante each gave outstanding displays, as did Katie Chapman and Fara Williams in front of them but every player made a contribution during one of England's best ever results.
Hope Powell elected to play an unchanged team from that which destroyed Holland 4-0 at The Valley last month, whilst France fielded a first choice line up which included a three-pronged attack, headed by Marinette Pichon.
France forced a corner in the opening seconds but it was England who caused the first scare at the other end, Kelly Smith's cross was fumbled by Sarah Bouhaddi under pressure from Fara Williams and the ball was cleared from in front of goal.
Karen Carney and Smith both fired shots off target as England maintained their positive start. Tonazzi was fortunate to escape a yellow card for an outrageous dive in the penalty area when pressed by Carney and Mary Phillip but in the opening quarter of the game, there were no scares for England.
The first opportunity for France came as Hoda Lattaf's cross was touched on by Pichon to Tonazzi, who controlled well but Rachel Unitt's challenge was enough to put her off and she skied her shot over the bar. Pichon shot wide from an angle after latching on to Sandrine Soubeyrand's pass and the French striker brought out a good save from Rachel Brown with a shot from the edge of the area.
Brown was again called into action as she turned a Lattaf shot around the post but, despite a struggle to keep hold of the ball, England kept things tight for the remainder of the half to ensure that they went into the interval goalless.
England were forced into a change at half time as an injured Rachel Unitt was replaced by Casey Stoney, the Charlton defender slotting into the left back position. Soubeyrand was inches away from reaching a Casseleux free kick and Bussaglia drove over the bar as France began to step up the pace. Brown once again made a fine save to deny Pichon but as the French pressure grew, England struck a mighty blow.
After Carney had been fouled on the right, Yankey swung in a free kick and Williams jumped with Lattaf, the ball looping over Bouhaddi and dropping into the back of the net via the post to give England a precious lead. Williams raced away to take the congratulations of her team mates but it was Lattaf who had got the last touch for what was credited as an own goal.
France went straight back on the attack and it took a good challenge from Phillip to deflect Pichon's shot over the bar. From the resulting corner, Bompastor thundered a goalbound volley which richocheted wide off Lattaf in front of goal.
Another dangerous Yankey free kick almost led to another chance for England but Chapman was just unable to force the ball home. Aluko fired narrowly over the bar from the edge of the area as French frustrations began to grow.
Williams produced a neatly struck 25-yard volley which was saved at the second attempt by Bouhaddi and the England midfielder did equally well at the other end with a vital clearance to deny Diguelman a chance, Soubeyrand drilling wide from the rebound.
However as the game ticked towards the 90-minute mark, France were back on level terms, albeit in fortuitous circumstances. Diguelman's cross from the left floated over an outstretched Brown and just inside the far post.
Pichon headed a long cross straight at Brown but England had a glorious chance to get back in front moments later as Bouhaddi overran the ball in front of goal, Aluko stole in but her shot came back off the post. It wasn't to matter, the final whistle went seconds afterwards and England could finally relax and celebrate - they are on their way to China!
England: Rachel Brown, Alex Scott, Rachel Unitt, Katie Chapman, Anita Asante, Mary Phillip, Karen Carney, Fara Williams, Eniola Aluko, Kelly Smith, Rachel Yankey. Subs: Casey Stoney (for Unitt 45 mins), Sue Smith (for Yankey 77 mins), Lindsay Johnson (for Carney 90 mins), Siobhan Chamberlain, Jody Handley, Vicky Exley, Lianne Sanderson.
France: Sarah Bouhaddi, Sandrine Dusang, Anne-Laure Casseleux, Laura Georges, Laure Lepailleur, Sandrine Soubeyrand, Elise Bussaglia, Sonia Bompastor, Marinette Pichon, Hoda Lattaf, Laetitia Tonazzi. Subs: Elodie Thomis (for Bussaglia 75 mins), Camille Abily (for Tonazzi 83 mins), Ludivine Diguelman (for Casseleux 86 mins), Berangere Sapowicz, Louisa Necib, Sabrina Viguier, Laure Bouleau.
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