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France off to impressive start


France served notice that they are likely to be among the main challengers in the Euro 2022 Finals as a stunning first half performance took them to a 5-1 victory over Italy at Rotherham.


Stories had abounded of discontent amongst the French camp going into the game but all this was put behind them as they stormed into a two-goal lead inside the opening twelve minutes. First of all, Italy became the latest team to concede a goal after losing possession when playing out from the back and Kadidiatou Diani set up Grace Geyoro to score, and then Marie-Antoinette Katoto followed up from a rebound to slot home the second.


Katoto hit the post with a header as France threatened to run riot, the Italian defence being unable to cope with the searing pace of their forward line. A third goal was looking inevitable and it came six minutes before half time, courtesy of a powerful strike from Delphine Cascarino.


Two minutes, Geyoro broke through and rounded Laura Giuliani before rolling into the empty net for the fourth, and Geyoro completed her hat-trick ahead of the break when she slid in Diani's low cross at full stretch.


After the break, France were never able to recapture the heights of their first half performance whilst Italy improved after the break. Italy were a little fortunate to escape further trouble as Sara Gama had a red card decision by Rebecca Welch overturned on a VAR review, for what had looked to be a reckless challenge on Charlotte Bilbault.


Italy did score a consolation when Martina Piemonte rose at the far post to head in a cross from Barbara Bonansea but the game had been over as a contest long before and it will be interesting to see if France can build on their first half display as the tournament progresses, and if Italy can put this mauling behind them.


France: Pauline Peyraud-Magnin, Eve Perisset, Wendie Renard, Charlotte Bilbault, Aissatou Tounkara, Sandie Toletti, Sakina Karchaoui (sub Sandy Baltimore 88mins), Grace Geyoro (sub Kenza Dali 67mins), Marie-Antoinette Katoto (sub Ouleymata Sarr 77mins), Delphine Cascarino (sub Melvine Malard 67mins), Kadidiatou Diani (sub Selma Bacha 78mins). Subs not used: Mylene Chavas, Ella Palis, Marion Torrent, Clara Mateo, Justine Lerond, Griedge Mbock Bathy, Hawa Cissoko.


Italy: Laura Giuliani, Elisa Bartoli, Sara Gama, Aurora Galli (sub Martina Rosucci 45mins), Elena Linari, Manuela Giugliano (sub Flaminia Simonetti 45mins), Lisa Boattin, Arianna Caruso (sub Martina Piemonte 74mins), Valentina Bergamaschi, Cristiana Girelli (sub Valentina Giacinti 58mins), Barbara Bonansea (sub Lucia Di Guglielmo 81mins). Subs not used: Daniela Sabatino, Katja Schroffenegger, Agnese Bonfantini, Maria Luisa Filangeri, Francesca Durante, Martina Lenzini.


The other match in the group was a more cagey affair as Belgium and Iceland battled out a 1-1 draw at Manchester City's Academy Stadium.


In front of a noisy crowd, which included the Prime Minster of Iceland and Roberto Martinez, boss of the Belgium men's team, the game started slowly in hot conditions but on the half hour, Iceland were awarded a penalty after VAR ruled that the ball had struck Davina Philtjens' arm but Torvalsdottir's kick was underhit and lacked power, allowing Nicky Evrard to get down and save.


Iceland continued to have the better of things before half time but neither side could fashion anything clear cut and the scoreline was goalless at the interval.


The game needed a goal to bring it to life and it came five minutes after the restart. Shortly after Evrard had made a good block with her legs to keep out a shot from Jonsdottir, Iceland took the lead as Jonsdottir's far post cross was headed firmly home by Torvalsdottir.


Belgium took a while to settle down after conceding and they were given a great chance of their own to equalise as Tessa Wullaert slipped a pass into the area for Dhont who was brought down by Brynjarsdottir for a penalty. Justine Vanhaevermaet stepped up to send the keeper the wrong way from the spot and the scores were level again.


Wullaert flashed a shot inches over the bar as Belgium sought a quick second but Iceland were to hit back quick, Brynjarsdottir bringing out a save from Evrard.


Both teams piled forward for a winner in the last ten minutes with the game going from end to end but neither could find a way through and they had to settle for a point apiece.


Belgium: Nicky Evrard, Jody Vangheluwe, Sari Kees, Laura De Neve, Davina Philtjens, Justine Vanhaevermaet, Julie Biesmans, Elena Dhont (sub Hannah Eurlings 78mins), Tine De Caigny, Janice Cayman, Tessa Wullaert (sub Ella van Kerkhoven 90mins). Subs: Amber Tysiak, Sarah Wijnants, Feli Delacauw, Diede Lemey, Davinia Vanmechelen, Marie Minnaert, Charlotte Tison, Lisa Lichtfus, Laura Deloose, Kassandra Missipo.


Iceland: Sandra Sigurdardottir, Sif Atladottir, Glodis Perla Viggosdottir, Gudrun Arnardottir, Hallbera Gudny Gisladottir (sub Alexandra Johannsdottir 90mins), Dagny Brynjarsdottir, Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir (sub Agla Maria Albertsdottir 86mins), Gunnhildur Jonsdottir, Berglind Bjorg Thorvaldsdottir (sub Svava Gudmundsdottir 72mins), Sveindis Jonsdottir. Subs not used: Elisa Vidarsdottir, Ingibjorg Sigurdardottir, Telma Ivarsdottir, Audur Sveinbjornsdottir, Selma Sol Magnusdottir, Elin Metta Jensen, Aslaug Gunnlaugsdottir, Gudny Arnadottir, Amanda Andradottir.


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