FOOTBALL: Diani’s two goals keys rout of U.S. women, 3-0, in Le Havre

Tough day for Lindsey Horan (9) and the U.S. in a 3-1 loss to France (Photo: U.S. Soccer)

Women’s World Cup hosts France showed their class in a dominant 2-0 win over the United States women’s team in front of a sell-out crowd at the Stade Oceane in Le Havre (FRA). The star was 23-year-old striker Kadidiatou Diani, who scored both goals.

The no.1-ranked U.S. played with a depleted roster, but there was no question that the French were the best side and had most of the possession and nearly all of the quality chances in the game.

Third-ranked France controlled the play from the start and consistently found room on the right side for attacks deep into the U.S. zone. Diani exploited this weakness with a score in the ninth minute off a cross from Delphine Cascarino, whose pass back into the box found Diani, who stopped, turned and finished with the right foot.

U.S. keeper Alyssa Naeher was kept busy throughout the first half, making an important save in the 29th minute of a Eugenie Le Sommer header and then a save off the shot of a streaking Diani on the 39th minute and punching away a Diani header in the 40th minute.

The American team’s energy improved after the 30-minute mark, but other than two runs from Christen Press, the U.S. had very little to show – three shots – for its first-half efforts. Diani had five shots by herself in the half!

Play was more even after halftime, but Le Sommer missed an open net after a U.S. turnover in the 51st minute, shooting it just wide to the right of the net and a diving Naeher. But Diani got loose again on the right side in the 57th minute and as Naeher cheated up to cut down her angle, Diani sailed a perfect shot over her head and into the net for a 2-0 lead.

France continued to press and Marie-Antoinette Katoto ran away from the U.S. defense on a long pass and rolled the ball past an approaching Naeher in the 78th minute for a three-goal lead.

The U.S. finally got a goal in stoppage time, as Carli Lloyd split two defenders with a pass to Mallory Pugh, who moved to her left and scored with a quality finish – her 13th goal for the national team – past French keeper Sarah Bouhaddi at the 90+1 mark.

The U.S. played without three of its offensive stars: Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath and Julie Ertz were all held out as a precaution due to minor injuries, and Rose Lavelle did not play. And France enjoyed a real home-field advantage in front of a noisy, sell-out crowd of 22,870, the third-largest crowd in the history of French women’s football, in cold conditions of about 36 degrees (F).

The loss ends the U.S.’s 28-game unbeaten streak that dated back to July, 2017. It also elevates France to first-tier contender status at the 2019 Women’s World Cup, especially since it has beaten the U.S. in two of its last three matches, with a draw in the third: 3-0 in 2018, 1-1 in 2018 and now 3-0 in 2019.

The U.S. fell to 17-3-3 against France all time. The American women will play next on Tuesday against Spain in Alicate (ESP).

Two silver linings: this result is a dream-come-true for the Women’s World Cup organizers, who are going to be able to sell more tickets for a tournament which now appears wide open. For the U.S. team, any complacency about how good they are is gone, at least for now.