France put itself in a commanding position to reach the last 16 of the Women’s World Cup after earning a hard-fought 2-1 win over Brazil thanks to Wendie Renard’s late header. France dominated the early exchanges and veteran forward Eugenie Le Sommer deservedly opened the scoring for France on 17 minutes, running onto Kadidiatou Diani’s cushioned header and nodding the ball past Letícia in the Brazil goal. After not being picked for the Euro 2021 squad and again being left out during qualifying for this World Cup, Le Sommer would likely have wondered whether she would ever play for Les Bleues again. But selected again by new head coach Hervé Renard, who coached Saudi Arabia at the men’s World Cup in December, here she was scoring on the biggest stage once more. That goal was Le Sommer’s 90th in a France shirt and her sixth at a World Cup, a remarkable tally for one of the great goalscorers of her generation. Clash of the heavyweights After a nervy start, Brazil grew into the match as the first half wore on. Debinha showed magic, dancing feet to brilliantly set up Adriana inside the penalty area, but she blazed her effort high and wide. As Canarinhas continued to improve in the second half and eventually got the goal their efforts deserved thanks to Debinha, who was beginning to steal the show in Brisbane. There was certainly some good fortune in the build-up as Kerolin’s strike was deflected into Debinha’s path, but the forward reacted swiftly and took one sumptuous touch with the outside of her boot before firing the ball past Pauline Peyraud-Magnin. The match was living up to its billing as a blockbuster clash, with both sides continuing to attack in search of a winner. Then, with just seven minutes remaining, the 6ft 2in Renard appeared unmarked at the far post to head Selma Bacha’s corner past Letícia. Even with the introduction of legendary forward Marta for the final five minutes to huge cheers, Brazil was unable to draw level for a second time. The three points gained will be a huge boost for France – illustrated by the ecstatic celebrations that followed the full-time whistle – after the team struggled to a goalless draw against Jamaica in its opening match. Brazil, meanwhile, remains on three points after beating Panama 4-0 in its opener. A victory over Jamaica will guarantee a place in the last 16. Sweden hammers Italy Earlier, Sweden advanced to the knockout stages thanks to a thumping 5-0 win over Italy. A disjointed Sweden needed a 90th-minute winner to edge past South Africa in its opening Group G match, but the team looked back to its best at times against Italy as three late first-half goals ended the game as a contest. After battling well for much of the opening 45 minutes, Italy’s resistance was finally broken six minutes before half time as Amanda Ilestedt, who recently signed for Arsenal Women, lost her marker to head home from a corner kick. That goal opened the floodgates for Sweden, which doubled its lead five minutes later through Fridolina Rolfö after yet more sloppy Italian defending from a corner. Stina Blackstenius then made it 3-0 in stoppage time, tapping home after a sweeping Swedish attack. A corner kick proved to be Italy’s undoing for a third time just five minutes into the second half. It was Ilestedt again who stole in at the near post to head past goalkeeper Francesca Durante for her second of the match. Sweden added more gloss to the scoreline in injury time through Rebecka Blomqvist, who latched onto a long pass and calmly slotted the ball past the onrushing Durante. There are only a select number of teams in Australia and New Zealand that could take the US’ crown and Sweden, ranked third in the world, is one of them. This group has regularly felt the pressure of being labeled the country’s ‘Golden Generation’ and came so close to living up to that moniker two years ago, losing to Canada in the gold medal match at the rescheduled 2020 Olympic Games. But Saturday’s win over Italy marks Sweden’s biggest victory at a Women’s World Cup since it beat Japan 8-0 in 1991. Sweden reached the semifinals at Euro 2022 and the World Cup four years ago in France, and this performance firmly puts the team back on track to emulate or even better previous results. Despite the heavy defeat, Italy still has an excellent chance of qualifying for the round of 16. Victory over South Africa would ensure its place in the knockout stages, but a draw would also be enough should Sweden beat Argentina as expected.