Ferocious France crush South Korea in World Cup Opener
Home advantage is a cliche commonly uttered in football. But it's fair to say the Parc des Princes more than played its part as France swept aside South Korea in Friday’s Women’s World Cup opener.
While opening ceremonies aren’t to everybody’s taste, nor are excitable stadium hosts and TV presenters, the formula used to gear up the crowd in Paris certainly worked, and if such support is to follow them around the country these finals, then their chances of winning a first World Cup title just increased tenfold.
Korea are not a poor side by any means. In fact, they are probably one of the best, technically, at this tournament. But they were made to look like anything but as Corinne Diacre’s team, brimming with confidence even before an army of fans behind them made their voices heard, hammered them 4-0 in ruthless fashion.
Her high-pressing from deep created the game’s first chance, which ended with her shooting just wide, and it was her drive down the right that created the first goal, a pinpoint cross finding Eugenie Le Sommer, another fitness concern for this clash, who finished emphatically.
While Les Bleues danced about in celebration to the sound of an almighty roar, Korea’s regrouping straight after the goal emphasised just how much they were suffocating in the Parisian atmosphere.
Korea couldn’t string two passes together, despite the carpet-like surface they were playing on and the quality they could boast in midfield, in Chelsea’s Ji So-yun and West Ham’s Cho So-hyun.
Worst of all, they couldn’t do anything about it. And while they pondered how to get back into the game, their biggest weakness – and one of France’s biggest strengths – reared its ugly head. Set pieces.
They were issued a warning when VAR intervened and disallowed a second France goal just before the half hour mark. Wendie Renard was given far too much time and space to nod a cross into the path of her centre-back partner, Griedge Mbock Bathy, who scored a sublime volley – albeit, while millimetres offside.
However, Korea didn’t take note, allowing Renard to pop up with a thunderous header from a corner for France’s eventual second – and, criminally, their third, too.
Korea were wasteful in possession, completing just 73 per cent of their passes and seeing just 34% of the ball, and rarely worried France's sublime centre-back pairing of Renard and Mbock.
Even when they did, on one particular occasion late in the second half, they were still wasteful. Substitute Lee Mina caught France sleeping and used her frightening pace to beat the offside trap, but her shot - only South Korea's second of the evening - was dragged well wide.
Henry capped off a fine individual and team display in the closing minutes with the goal of the evening. She skipped past a couple of half-hearted challenges and onto her right foot, before picking out the far corner with a tantalising curler.
Four goals, a clean sheet and a record attendance for a women’s football match in France to boot, with the 45,261 spectators smashing the previous record of 25,907 – it was certainly a successful night for the hosts in Paris, who showed no signs of crippling under the weight of pressure or expectation.
And if this support sticks with them this summer, it would be criminal to write them off – even if the USA, England and Germany could all stand between Les Bleues and the title.