LE HAVRE • If France have been far from brilliant at the Women's World Cup so far, their 2-1 extra-time win over Brazil in the last 16 on Sunday at least showed they have ample mental resources.
With a likely quarter-final clash against defending champions the United States looming (the result of their match against Spain was not available at press time), Les Bleues need to stay focused despite the relief of going through after a tough battle against Brazil.
"We have not reached our goal yet," the hosts' coach Corinne Diacre told a news conference after the match at Le Havre.
"My players are not at their best level. Some are playing at 80 per cent of their potential, some at 60-70 per cent.
"I have to say I didn't recognise my team tonight but we managed to qualify."
France suffered a first setback when Valerie Gauvin had a goal chalked off after a VAR (video assistant referee) review. But the Montpellier striker stayed composed and scored in the 52nd minute.
Thaisa equalised for Brazil 11 minutes later, but France captain Amandine Henry netted the winning goal in the 107th minute.
"It was disappointing in the moment but we managed to get back into the game," Gauvin said.
"We were not rattled by this or by the goal we conceded. We stayed together as a team."
Despite not playing at their best, France were still a class above Brazil, but their coach Vadao was encouraged by their performance.
"The entire match was incredible," he said. "It was very balanced. I think we've played four very good matches at this tournament and (losing) is just part of football. But we made it difficult for France today."
An emotional Marta, Brazil's star forward and the record World Cup scorer with 17 goals, issued an appeal to the next generation, telling them they are responsible for the survival of the women's game in her football-obsessed country.
The 33-year-old, nicknamed 'Pele in a skirt' by the Brazil great, is widely considered to be one of the best female players of all time.
However, her dream of winning a World Cup for the first time died again on Sunday.
"We're asking for support, you have to cry at the beginning and smile at the end," she said.
"You have to want more, train more, to be ready to play 90 minutes, plus 30 minutes extra time and every minute.
"This is what I ask the girls. Women's football depends on you to survive. Think about it, savour it."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE