It took a remarkable six-minute period in the second half for what had been a largely uneventful Women's World Cup
match to come to life in Rennes as France beat Nigeria 1-0 in dramatic fashion.
The task facing Nigeria's Super Falcons before a partisan 28,267 crowd at Roazhon Park had always been deemed a formidable one.
France had won 15 of its last 16 games coming into its final group match -- conceding only six times in the process -- but the Super Falcons seemed up to the task until the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) came into play in the 73rd minute and created a period of theater.
Nigeria defender Ngozi Ebere had brought Viviane Asseyi down inside the box, leaving the referee with little option but to award the spot kick once Melissa Borjas had opted for a VAR check.
Ebere was subsequently shown a red card for a second bookable offense, while France defender Wendi Renard went on to hit the post from the spot -- only for VAR to give France a lifeline by penalizing Nigeria goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie for stepping away from her line before the ball was hit.
Renard retook the penalty and this time dispatched her effort with aplomb to give the hosts what proved to be the match-winning goal.
In 18-year-old Nnadozie -- who became the youngest goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet at a World Cup in Nigeria's victory over South Korea -- Nigeria had a player who had stood up to whatever came her way, until the teenager suffered a harsh lesson on the biggest stage of all.
"If I give you my honest feelings, they'll probably send me home so it's better I don't say anything," Nigeria coach Thomas Dennerby told reporters after the match.
"My players are heroes. Of course I'm disappointed by the result, France is a really good team and don't need support from anybody to win games. The girls were fighting so well, they followed the match plan and it's getting destroyed by people that we're not so happy with."
Nigeria, which did not muster a shot on target against France, must now wait to learn if it has done enough to reach the last 16, while France -- winning all three group matches for the first time in its history -- will play its last-16 match in Le Havre after topping Group A.
By George Ramsay and Aimee Lewis