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France's run of 11 straight wins encompassing UEFA Women's EURO 2013 qualifying and the group stage made them many people's favourites to take the title. In the end, just like four years ago, they fell in a quarter-final penalty shoot-out.
Falling behind early to underdogs Denmark, they equalised in the second half through Louisa Necib's penalty but could not score again in the 90 minutes or extra time. Then Necib saw her penalty saved at the start of the shoot-out, and Les Bleues were eventually to lose 4-2 after one more miss each.
It was an even bigger shock than two months ago when Olympique Lyonnais, who made up the bulk of Bruno Bini's squad, had their bid for a third straight UEFA Women's Champions League title ended by VfL Wolfsburg. Beating Russia 3-1, Spain 1-0 and – in some style, with key players rested – England 3-0, many wondered who could stop France. With a settled defence and midfield plus stellar attacking options in Necib, Camilly Abily, Eugénie Le Sommer, Élodie Thomis, Marie-Laure Delie and Gaëtane Thiney, they had a stronger bench than most starting lineups.
But it was Denmark who prevailed, causing an even bigger upset than in 2009 when the Netherlands won a quarter-final shoot-out against a France side yet to reach the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup and 2012 Olympic semis. Abily and towering defender Wendie Renard, both of Lyon, reflected on what went wrong.
Wendie Renard, France defender
We needed a second goal. In the second half, we showed courage; we managed to react after a first half in which we had problems because they played between the lines. There was too much space. We reacted well but unfortunately the second goal didn't come. I think that's what France lacked tonight.
We can't talk about bad luck only. On the other side, the goalkeeper [Stina Petersen] was fantastic and made great saves. It's true that we hit the post so we can say that it's bad luck, but we tried everything so if the ball didn't want to go in it's not our fault. I think everyone is devastated and disappointed tonight. It's really cruel.
Camille Abily, France midfielder
It's difficult because when you saw how the game went, I think we deserved to win. We had more scoring chances than them. They defended very well, but we know that if we had managed to score once more, they wouldn't have been able to come back.
It's true that at the end of normal time, we thought we were going to extra time because we could see that they were getting tired whereas we were fine. We hoped to score during those 30 minutes but unfortunately we couldn't.
I think that we didn't start well. It's true that for the first 20 or 30 minutes we didn't play well and they scored. Once they had scored, we woke up, but it was a bit late. That's what it's like when you play at the highest level: if you don't perform straight away, it costs you.
We were focused, we were ready. The Danish girls prevented us from playing well too. They had a better start than us.
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