Football Features

France 4-0 South Korea: Five things we learned as hosts open 2019 Women’s World Cup in style

By CJ Smith

Published: 21:55, 7 June 2019

France kicked off the 2019 Women’s World Cup in style, running out 4-0 winners against South Korea in Paris.

The brilliant Eugénie Le Sommer fired an emphatic finish home via the crossbar after just nine minutes, while Wendie Renard had the hosts 3-0 up by half time with two goals headed home from corners.

While France dropped down a gear in the second half, their control over the game never waned and Amandine Henry’s strike to make it 4-0 at the end was well deserved.

But what did we learn?

1. A perfect start

Any suggestion of the French being nervous at the prospect of hosting a World Cup – as well as being many people’s joint-favourites – was quickly dismissed when Le Sommer fired Les Bleus 1-0 up after just nine minutes.

Some great work from captain Amandine Henry, winning the ball back and playing a quick one-two with Kadidiatou Diani, slipped Le Sommer in on goal and from that point, there was no doubt about the outcome.

The Lyon forward slammed home the opener off the crossbar to score her 11th goal in 11 games for France. The goal, even that early in the game, had been coming and totally deserved. The French went at South Korea like a pack of wolves, hunting the ball down, flooding wide areas and turning the opposition box into something of a meat grinder.

By half-time, it was 3-0 to France, who were winning the ‘touches in the opposition box’ battle 22-0.

2. Rabbit in the headlights

France extended their 22-0 lead of touches in the opposition box to 33-2 by the end of the game, while the scoreline stretched to 4-0.

From start to finish in this game, the South Koreans were like rabbits in the headlights. Their nervous passing led to a wretched 73.25% pass completion rate, while Yoon Deok-yeo’s side were able to muster just three shots to France’s 21.

The defending from Hwang Bo-Ram for Renard’s first goal was the perfect visual representation of just how frozen the South Koreans were in the face of the French onslaught, with the defender backing away from Gaëtane Thiney’s cross rather than trying to challenge the tallest player on the pitch.

South Korea headed into this tournament with the moniker of a ‘plucky, banana-skin’ side. To truly fulfil that billing, vast improvements are needed.

3. Relentless Renard

Wendie Renard is a real force of nature. A 6ft 2in, goalscoring centre-back who has netted 67 times in 254 games at club level for Lyon, winning pretty much everything on offer along the way.

And on Friday, she helped her country stamp their authority right on the 2019 Women’s World Cup with two thunderous headed goals from corners.

Sure, Hwang Bo-Ram should have done much more to try and put her off for the first but in reality, even if she’d tried, it likely wouldn’t have made a difference.

By the end of the game, Renard had won match-high four aerial duels and had 99 touches of the ball, the second-highest number on the pitch, exemplifying France’s dominance in this game as she breezed through the 90 minutes. Just as Yerry Mina was for Colombia in the 2018 men’s edition, Renard will be a real goal threat from set pieces throughout.

4. A captain’s performance

When you’re the hosts and joint-favourites of a World Cup, it’s fair to say there’s a huge amount of pressure on your shoulders. To handle that pressure, you need a captain who can stamp their authority on the game and lead the way in every aspect. Henry was just that on Friday.

Setting the tone, she harassed the South Koreans into a mistake to win the ball back for the first goal and won the midfield battle throughout the game with consummate ease. Her 15 passes into the final third – the most of any player on the pitch – set the tempo for her side, one South Korea just couldn’t live with as their lines were consistently broken and bypassed.

The scary thing about this France side is the fact that alongside Henry, the likes of Renard and Le Sommer could easily wear the armband. It’s a side full of leaders. Even so, Henry was still able to stand head and shoulders above the rest at the Parc des Princes.

Her beautifully taken goal to make it 4-0 at the end was absolutely deserved.

5. Laying down a marker

Automatically qualifying as hosts, this is just the fourth time France have made it to the Women’s World Cup. Moreover, they’ve never gone further than fourth place, winning just six of their 14 games in the competition before Friday night.

But the way they cut through South Korea like a buzzsaw in the first half in Paris was pure justification as to why so many people are tipping them for success on home soil. The gauntlet has well and truly been thrown down.

The second half may not have had quite as much spark and ruthlessness as the first but still, they didn’t allow South Korea a single sniff.

The likes of USA, Germany and England will provide far more formidable opposition to France should they meet. But these sorts of performances will certainly have the other favourites worried, while it will only serve to enhance the confidence of the hosts, backed by a raucous home crowd.