France and South Korea kicked off the 2019 Women's World Cup on Friday, as the hosts made the perfect start with a 4-0 win in front of an expectant home crowd.
The win puts France at the top of Group A, as Norway and Nigeria wait for Saturday to kick off their World Cup campaigns. Despite the strength of the Norwegians, it will take some performance against Nigeria to see them overtake Les Bleus after one game.
France's dominance against a nervy South Korea was evident early on with a few close shaves nearly giving them the lead. With the French looking dangerous in every attack, it did not take long for them to break the deadlock, as nine minutes in Eugenie Le Sommer crashed home Amandine Henry's cutback with a little help from the crossbar.
On 35 minutes, the giant Wendie Renard made no mistake, as she rose highest from a corner to put France two goals to the good. The centre-back popped up with another powerful header on the stroke of half time to give Les Bleus an unassailable lead going into the break.
The second half was fairly pedestrian by all accounts until France's star player Henry stepped up to curl home a wonderful effort from 25 yards out. The strike put the icing on the cake for her side and they could not have hoped for a better opening game. They will now carry heaps of confidence into their next match with Norway on Wednesday.
Key Talking Point
France do not have much pedigree in the Women's World Cup, yet they are one of the favourites for this year's competition. Therefore they would have felt the pressure in front of a sell-out crowd on Friday night. That atmosphere can often result in a nervy performance, but that never looked like being the case for France, as they took control from the first whistle.
As you might expect, the second half performance from Les Bleus was much calmer, as they looked to protect their lead. They may be concerned with the individual errors which provided openings for South Korea, though their opponents were unable to take advantage.
In what was a fairly comfortable game, the French defence were rarely threatened by a below-par Korean side. When they come up against Norway on match day two, they will no doubt come under more pressure and will need to be at the races straight away.
Starting XI: Bouhaddi (6); Torrent (7), Mbock Bathy (6), Renard (8*), Majri (6); Henry (7), Bussaglia (6), Cascarino (7), Thiney (6), Diani (6); Le Sommer (7)
Substitues: Gauvin (7), Perisset (6), Geyoro (N/A)
Wendie Renard stole the show on the opening night of the World Cup, as her brace set France on their way to a comfortable victory against South Korea. Despite all the talk of the hosts' attacking talents, it was the centre-back Renard, who dominated the game with her aerial presence.
Even in defence, she remained assured throughout and made the game easy for her side. The tie was dominated by the home side, largely down to Renard's ability to kill off any sniff the Koreans had of goal.
When the French come up against stronger opposition later on in the tournament, they may not have things all their own way like they did tonight. These games will be tighter and have few chances, but with the Olympique Lyonnais centre-back on the pitch, France will always carry an attacking threat.
Not just the tallest player in the competition, but also one of the best defenders. Renard has made herself one to watch at the 2019 World Cup.
Key Talking Point
It was always going to be tough for the Koreans in their first game as they played the host side. They may have approached this as a 'free hit' before easier games against Norway and Nigeria, but South Korea will still no doubt be upset with their performance.
From minute one they looked nervy at the back and appeared to buckle under the pressure of the home crowd. After the first goal went in, they seemed to settle down and restrict France from open play. However, they were unable to deal with the aerial threat of Wendie Renard, and this is ultimately what put the game beyond them.
Starting XI: J. Kim (6); Hwang (6), H. Kim (4), D. Kim (5), Jang (6); Cho (5), Young-Ju (6), Kang (6); Ji (7*), Y. Lee (5) Jung (5)
Substitutes: Kang (6), M. Lee (6), Yeo (N/A)
Ji So-yun was South Korea's brightest player in what was a very difficult game for the underdogs. In truth, the Koreans never got a foothold in this game and rarely threatened the French goal. That said, the Chelsea midfielder did occasionally break through, but looked short of options up front.
Ji led her side to an improved second half at the Parc des Princes, as they looked a lot more solid defensively and also posed an attacking threat. They may feel as though they should have put a goal to their name, but in all honesty the game was probably won in the first 45 minutes.
Ji is clearly the player who manager Yoon Deok-yeo will look to in their next two group games, as he looks to progress his side through to the second round against the odds. If an unlikely qualification is to happen, nothing but a win will do against Nigeria on Wednesday.
Up next for the hosts, they take on Norway in what is one of the most anticipated group games of this World Cup. Meeting in Nice, France will be hoping to beat the former world champions and really make a statement to the rest of the competition.
South Korea will be heading to Grenoble on Wednesday to play Nigeria in an effort to keep their World Cup hopes alive. In contrast to this game, the Koreans will be pretty evenly matched with their next opponents, and will have plenty of chances to score some goals.