Weekly football conversation since 2009, with Graham Sibley, Jan Bilton and Terry Duffelen. Listen on Apple, Google, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn or your podcatcher of choice.

Women's World Cup: Corventina turns heads

Following England's narrow and unconvincing 1-0 win over Haiti, most of the English media coverage has been about how poor the Lionesses were and not talking about how well Haiti and one player in particular played. Being the shameless bandwagon-jumping hipster he is, Terry Duffelen has a few words to say about Haiti’s rising star, Melchie Dumorney or Corventina as she is known to her teammates.

There are two moments in the England v Haiti match that stick out for me. First, around the 80th-minute mark, England goalkeeper Mary Earps lying on the ground, gripping tightly to the match ball. Earps is looking up at her teammates, projecting a sense of relief and dismay that, were it not for her, England would probably be losing to this unfancied and young Haiti side.

The second is a little earlier in the half when 19-year-old Melchie Dumorney, making her World Cup debut, pushed aside European champion and Champions League winner Lucy Bronze, as though she, Dumorney, was the established veteran and Bronze was the rookie.

Nicknamed Corventina, Dumorney, while unknown to most who do not follow the international women’s game, myself included, proved to be the standout performer in a game that Haiti was unlucky to lose. While possessing all the necessary qualities of an attacking midfielder - ball control, strength, and pace - Dumorney’s performance against England suggested courage and imagination.

As seems common among top female footballer bios that I read, Dumorney started playing football with boys in her hometown of Mirebalais. It was not long before she was scouted and recruited to AS Tigresses and the Haitian youth teams. In 2021, she met the age criteria to move to France and Reims. She scored 19 goals in 33 games in Division 1 Féminine. At the end of last season, she transferred to the current champions, Lyon, and will be playing Champions League football next season.

On the international front, Dumorney rose through the Haitian national team youth ranks and has been a full international since 2018. She has scored 8 goals, two of which were in the 2-1 win against Chile in the inter-continental play-off to qualify for the World Cup. If her performance against England is anything to go by, Corventina is set to be a star of the women’s game for both club and country. Bronze is just the beginning.

However, Haiti is not a one-player team. Most of the squad plays in France or the US. All but one of the squad is under 30, and seventeen are under 25. Coach Nicolas Delepine (who doubles up as the coach of the second-division French club, Grenoble) has assembled a squad that will develop over time, and judging by their performance against England, they are set to make an impact on this World Cup.

Having only narrowly lost to an admittedly poor England side, they must be super-confident to get something from Denmark and China. Having watched all four teams play, pre-tournament suggestions that Haiti would be just happy to be there are well wide of the mark.

Already, we are seeing that the so-called smaller nations are holding their own against the established powerhouses of the women’s game. While we’ve seen some one-sided defeats like Vietnam against the US and Costa Rica and Spain, only Zambia so far has been given a hiding against Japan (although I’m currently watching Germand v Morocco and the German’s have just scored a third). It’s early days, but thus far, the decision to expand the Women’s World Cup to 32 teams looks vindicated. Indeed, without expansion, we would not have seen this Haiti side and would not be able to witness the emergence of a new superstar.

VAR crossing the line

There’s a strong argument that the England v Haiti game should have ended 0-0. The Lionesses' win hinged on a retaken penalty after the VAR judged that Haiti goalkeeper Kerly Théus had come off her line before Georgia Stanway took her shot, which is true.

But in my opinion, that penalty should not have been retaken. With the exception of offside, VAR is really supposed to exist to correct “clear and obvious” errors by on-field referees. If two officials can’t spot a goalkeeper encroachment at a penalty, then it’s neither clear nor obvious. By all means if VAR is available then referees should use it to check if they have seen encroachment but for me officials are getting VAR to do the the work instead of them.

As an Englishman, I’m obviously pleased the spot kick was retaken, and England scored. However, in 99% of any football match played around the world where VAR is not used, that save would have counted, and that just does not feel right.

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