AUCKLAND, New Zealand — France star Wendie Renard was injured in her first appearance of this Women's World Cup and her status is now in question for an important match against Brazil.
Renard was injured during France's underwhelming 0-0 draw against Jamaica, and although she played the entire 90 minutes in the opener, she was believed to be hurt in second-half stoppage time in a tackle that earned Khadija Shaw a second yellow card of the game.
The France captain trained with her squad ahead of Saturday's match in Brisbane, but if she can't play, Les Bleues could be in big trouble in Group F.
“Our hope is that everything goes well because we need her,” France coach Herve Renard said Friday night. “We are not sure tonight 100%. Our trainings are quite intense and we will have to see how things happen once we face the match.”
Brazil romped to a 4-0 win over Panama in its opener behind a hat trick from Ary Borges and are holding strong as the group leaders.
France, which is ranked No. 5 in the world, had few good scoring chances against the 43rd-ranked Jamaicans. But Herve Renard was pragmatic about the team’s challenges.
“There are lots of people, lots of teams that start with the fanfare and are not there come the final, and others are maybe slow to get out of the starting blocks,” he said.
A loss to Brazil could potentially lead to France's elimination after the group stage, something the French have avoided since 2003. France did not qualify in 2007, but advanced out of its group in the last three World Cups.
The French are undefeated against Brazil in 11 matches, with six victories and five draws.
Brazil, which is ranked eighth in the world, would be guaranteed a spot in the knockout round with a victory Saturday. Brazil has advanced to the knockout stage in the last six Women's World Cups, but has never won the trophy.
Brazil played in the 2007 final but lost 2-0 to champions Germany.
Brazil star Marta, playing in her sixth and final World Cup, is trying to make history as the first player — male or female — to score in six tournaments. She’s already the all-time leading scorer in the Women’s World Cup with 17 goals.
She came off the bench against Panama.
The third-ranked team in the world opened the Women's World Cup with a monstrous scare when Sweden needed a goal in the 90th minute for a 2-1 win over South Africa.
The Swedes next play a Group G match against Italy on Saturday in Wellington and this game should be even tougher than Sweden's first opponent. Italy beat Argentina to open the tournament, but needed a goal in the 87th minute to secure its 1-0 victory.
Sweden defender Jonna Andersson expects Italy, ranked 16th, to be a completely different opponent than the South African squad that troubled the Swedes.
“South Africa was really strong in the counter-attacks with fast strikers, and now we’re going to face Italy, that’s maybe a more technically good team and they maybe press a little bit higher in defense," said Andersson, who insisted Sweden never panicked when South Africa struck first.
“We as a team are so strong and I could feel that we had the feeling and the trust in the team that we could change the momentum and change the game,” she said. "And finally, we scored two goals and we won the game. So I think we had a good feeling even if they scored the first goal, (we had) the feeling that we could change it and that we could win.”
Sweden has had to overcome some injuries as Fridolina Rolfo has been recovering from a knee injury, and then was ill ahead of the South Africa match. Although she scored the equalizer in the opening match, she was substituted midway through the second half.
Amanda Ilestedt played the entire match and scored the game-winner despite a thigh injury, but fellow defender Linda Sembrant did not play. Sweden star player Caroline Seger has been plagued by calf injuries and came off the bench against South Africa.
Italy is healthy and features 16-year-old Giulia Dragoni, who is nicknamed “Little Messi.” She's been lauded for her passing and ability to stay out of trouble on the field.
She said she's ready to take Italy through the group stage, despite her young age.
“I don’t feel any pressure because I know my value," she said. "People know me. I’m very confident and patient.”
Jamaica scored its first competition point in Women's World Cup history when it played France to a scoreless draw in its opening Group F game. Now the Reggae Girlz play Panama with a chance of collecting their first win in the global tournament.
Panama, one of eight teams playing in the Women's World Cup for the first time, lost its opening match 4-0 to Brazil.
Panama is still trying to figure out its identity after reeling off 10 wins in 14 games, only to lose its next three matches by a combined score of 16-0 against superior talent.
Las Canaleras will drop out of contention for spot in the knockout round if they lose to Jamaica in the Saturday game scheduled to be played in Perth, Western Australia state.
Jamaica played above its level against France and did not concede a goal even when it was down to 10 players following Khadija Shaw’s late red card.
Shaw, the leading scorer for Jamaica, will miss the game because of the red card against France. Jamaica could move Cheyne Matthews into the front two.