Kadidiatou Diani scored a hat-trick as France secured a place in the Women’s World Cup last 16 as Group F winners after they came from behind to beat Panama 6-3 in Sydney.
Needing a point to ensure progression, Les Bleues trailed in the second minute when Marta Cox’s superb free-kick gave already-eliminated competition debutants Panama their first ever World Cup goal and a shock lead.
An emphatic response saw France equalise through Maelle Lakrar and a Diani brace – the second a penalty. Lea Le Garrec’s effort put them 4-1 up heading into the break, with Diani then completing her treble with another spot-kick two minutes into the second half.
Panama subsequently reduced the deficit via Yomira Pinzon’s penalty and an 87th-minute Lineth Cedeno header, before Vicki Becho concluded the scoring in stoppage time.
France will now face the runner-up from Group H – a spot currently occupied by Germany – in Adelaide next Tuesday.
While Panama were already confirmed as exiting at the group stage after losing 4-0 to Brazil and 1-0 to Jamaica, there were still big firsts they could achieve, and one came early on in spectacular fashion when Cox curled a fantastic free-kick beyond Pauline Peyraud-Magnin.
France, who had captain Wendie Renard and record scorer Eugenie Le Sommer on the bench, restored parity thanks to Lakrar’s 21st-minute header.
Diani then put the French ahead seven minutes later, firing in when her initial flick was blocked by Yenith Bailey, before adding a spot-kick nine minutes later after Pinzon was penalised for handball, and Le Garrec’s bouncing effort further boosted the advantage in first-half stoppage time.
Panama were once again judged guilty of handball shortly after the break – Wendy Natis this time – and the resulting penalty saw another composed finish from Diani for her hat-trick.
Panama were then awarded a penalty themselves just past the hour, following Elisa De Almeida’s challenge on Riley Tanner, and Pinzon converted – twice, being asked to retake after going too soon first time around.
They were not done there, with substitute Cedeno heading in late in normal time, before Becho’s finish during a lengthy added period at the end proved the final goal of a memorable contest.