Eugenie Le Sommer's spectacular first-half goal got France's Women's World Cup campaign off to a winning start with a 1-0 victory over long-suffering rivals England in their Group F clash in Moncton on Tuesday.
The ambitious French, ranked third and among the tournament favourites, dominated in rain and windy conditions in New Brunswick, condemning England to remain winless against their old rivals since 1974.
This was also the first time England's women had lost an opening match in a World Cup.
A moment of brilliance from Le Sommer put the French ahead after 29 minutes when England's Katie Chapman lost the ball in midfield and the Lyon striker rifled a rising drive past a diving Karen Bardsley.
"Yes it's a relief," said Le Sommer, 26, after scoring her 45th goal in 106 caps. "We wanted to set ourselves up and it was against England. They were the big game of the group," she explained. "Conditions were difficult and hard for the teams. It was a little slippery with the rain. After the goal we wanted to control the game and they didn't really come after us."
The French, who also eliminated England from the 2011 tournament and the 2013 Euros, look to have the potential to go all the way in what is their third women's world finals after finishing fourth in 2011.
"This team have shown they can be devastating in their counter attack," said England coach Mark Sampson. "It is a well organised, physically strong French defence," he added of 'Les Bleues', who followed in the footsteps of the other favourites Germany, the United States and Japan, who all got off to winning starts in the tournament across Canada.
The rain, wind and black balls of artificial turf which flew up with every bounce of the ball made conditions difficult in front of a sparse crowd of several thousand which mostly arrived late for a game which looked far from the image of a World Cup clash.
Following a tense first 20 minutes the French had three shots at goal with a Louisa Necib free kick after 21 minutes followed by two efforts from Le Sommer and Gaetane Thiney, before Le Sommer got the breakthrough.
After the break, Le Sommer had several chances to pull further ahead, but failed to find the target, as England struggled to retain possession and caused few problems for the French backline.
"It's a bad result but we're going to try to take the positives from it," said Sampson. "It's the first game of the tournament. It's a platform for us and we'll definitely try to build on that in our two games coming up."
The sixth-ranked English, looking to push beyond the quarter-finals for the first time, chase their first points against Mexico on Saturday, when France play Colombia.
Montoya's late goal earns Colombia 1-1 draw with Mexico
Following the England-France game, Daniela Montoya's booming goal from outside the penalty box in the 82nd minute helped Colombia recover for a 1-1 draw against Mexico in Moncton, New Brunswick on Tuesday.
The late draw keeps both countries in search of their first victories in the tournament.
Veronica Perez put Mexico up 1-0 in the 35th minute, turning after a corner kick and firing a right-footed shot that Columbian goalkeeper Castano Cardoso Derly Stefany was unable to keep from just crossing the line.
Yoreli Rincon nearly equalized for Columbia in the 59th minute, but her free kick over the outstretched Mexican goalkeeper Cecelia Santiago hit the post. However, Montoya tied the game in the final 10 minutes.
The top two teams in each group advance to the knock-out round along with the four best third-place finishers.
Spain, Costa Rica draw 1-1 in near empty stadium
Women's World Cup debutants Spain and Costa Rica laboured to a 1-1 draw on Tuesday in a dreary Group E opener played in a near empty Montreal Olympic Stadium.
There was little to excite the sparse crowd beyond a two-minute span early in the opening half that produced both goals.
Midfielder Vicky Losada opened the scoring in the 13th minute to give Spain the early lead before 37th-ranked Costa Rica replied one minute later.
Costa Rican defender Lixy Rodriguez worked the ball down the field before spotting an unmarked Raquel Rodriguez on the edge of the area for the 21-year-old striker to direct her pass into a gaping net for her 25th goal in 38 international appearances.
14th-ranked Spain continued to dominate possession in the second half as they swarmed into the Costa Rican zone and tested goalkeeper Dinnia Diaz but they could not score a winner.
The Canadian Football Association had announced on Monday that the tournament sold more than one million tickets but apparently few were sold for the Goup E clash with a sparse crowd in the massive stadium built for the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
In contrast to the disappointing turnout in Montreal, the World Cup has seen sellouts and large crowds at many of the other venues. A Canadian record crowd for a football match of 53,058 filled Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium for the host's opener on Saturday against China while the United States and Australia played to a full house of over 31,000 in Winnipeg.