Grace Geyoro’s hat-trick leads France 5-1 rout to perfect Euro start against Italy

Reports of France’s demise may have been somewhat exaggerated. All the divisive talk in the camp, after coach Corinne Deacon left world-famous stars such as Amandine Henry and Eugénie Le Sommer out of her squad for this tournament, was swept away in a surprisingly brilliant half-opening. illuminated by a triple Grace Geyoro.

It was two firsts in a Women’s Euro tournament game – a side scoring five goals and a player claiming a half-time hat-trick – but what’s not so new is the crescendo amount that will proclaim France as one of the favorites to win the competition. Third in the world, with 15 successive victories, they nevertheless remain the eternal underachievers. They build, only to topple. Maybe this time it will be different.

Aided and abetted by goals from Marie-Antoinette Katoto and Delphine Cascarino, France’s first-half siesta was the least the best women’s team to never win a major deserved. “It’s always good to have a good first game but nothing is decided,” Deacon said. “We should savor this victory because the performance in the first half was so good.”

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Twice winners Italy barely knew what had hit them as their hopes of capitalizing on France’s supposed fragility faded on the balmy Yorkshire evening.

This tournament had an entertaining start with 29 goals in the first eight games. With each team now having played at least once, opinions can begin to form about potential champions. Few people, surely, will dismiss France from the conversation after this screening; not yet, anyway.

Geyoro, who scored four league goals for Paris Saint-Germain last season, was named player of the match but team-mate Kadidiatou Diani showed fascinating control to go along with her move flexible on the right wing. France has cut off Italy on the flanks.

Witnessing the PSG winger’s velvet touch was a purist joy to behold, and when fed by new Chelsea signing Ève Périsset in the ninth minute, his cross from the right enabled Geyoro to fire home on the rebound after a slight deflection.

In less than three minutes, a center from the left flank of Sakina Karchaoui was manhandled by Laura Giuliani so that Marie-Antionette Katoto, strongly tipped as a potential contender for the golden shoe, could shoot from five meters.

The PSG No.9 quickly headed for the post after a superb move in which Diani, receiving Wendie Renard’s sumptuous long diagonal pass, crossed for Cascarino to return through the middle.

Diani’s ability to handle a ball came from a higher plane and more than one cross crossed the six-yard box needing just one touch for another goal before three more arrived in the seven minutes before half-time.

First, Cascarino cut inside the left wing to score a 20 yards out with his right foot; then Geyoro ran clear and rounded the goalkeeper to score before completing his hat-trick after a cross from Sandie Toletti.

Delphine Cascarino celebrates France's third goal with Charlotte Bilbault
Delphine Cascarino (second from right) celebrates France’s third goal with Charlotte Bilbault. Photograph: Lee Smith/Reuters

Italy’s victories over Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands in the past 12 months seemed like a deceptive mirage after that first half, but Milena Bertolini managed to encourage her proteges to come out and play with some pride.

The game may be over, but there is still second place and the quarter-finals to go, with Iceland next Thursday. So even though France have calmed down, Italy can take comfort in their much improved performance in the second half, capped by Martina Piemonte who headed for the post 14 minutes from time.

“We knew it was going to be difficult because there is a big gap between Italy and France,” Bertolini said. “We know we can compete with Belgium and Iceland.

“There are a number of positives that come out of this evening. We’ll come away with the attitude we showed in the second half and it’s not that easy to do that when you go into the second half 5-0; it could have been a big debacle. But the girls did a great job doing the simple things we discussed before. It’s a defeat that will teach us a lot.

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