45,261 football fans packed themselves inside the Parc des Princes tonight to witness what was a fantastic occasion for Women’s football. France ran out 4-0 winners over a very competent South Korea side to open the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The difference in quality was evident from the outset in this one. France were prodding and probing the Korean defence straightaway and Korea just could not handle them – particularly from set pieces. With Eugenie Le Sommer and Amel Majri on the left, as well as Marion Torrent and Delphine Cascarino on the right, the attacking play was slick, organised and deadly from the tournament hosts.
It took just ten minutes for all the French pressure to pay off as their skipper and woman of the match Amandine Henry broke down the right wing. She got into the box before pulling the ball back for the ready and waiting Le Sommer to hammer past the keeper and into the back of net.
After the goal, the game continued just as it had started. France were straight back on the attack and looking for more goals. The biggest threat from Corinne Diacre’s side was undoubtedly set pieces. With the 6ft1in Wendie Renard as well as Griedge Mbock Bathy forward for every corner, it was only a matter of time before one of them paid off.
In fact, the first goal France scored from one of their deadly corners was ruled out after a lengthy VAR interference. The ball came into the box frm the corner before Renard headed it back across goal to Mbock Bathy who volleyed past the keeper. Despite replays seemingly showing the defender to have been onside, the Video Assistant Referee ruled out the goal. After the decision, we were shown a different angle which did confirm Mbock Bathy was offside – by the width of a hair. Nonetheless, the first VAR decision of this historic tournament yielded a correct decision.
However, South Korea just couldn’t stop conceding corners and just eight minutes later, Wendie Renard delivered a blow from a corner that VAR couldn’t possibly find any issue with. A beautiful out-swinging corner found the centre-halve’s head as she rose head and shoulders above everybody else in the box. Then, just before the half-time whistle, lightning struck for a second time as Renard scored again – this time from the other side.
The second half brought little in terms of entertainment as South Korea came out a much more determined and organised team. They had also seemingly rid themselves of the nerves that hampered them so dearly throughout the opening stages of the game. It did, however, bring a fourth goal for the French – although we would have to wait until the 86th minute for it, but boy oh boy was it worth the wait.
Amandine Henry, who as I said earlier, was my shout for player of the game, picked the ball up about 25 yards from goal before curling a delicious effort into the far corner. Goalkeeper Kim Minjung scrambled across her touchline but ultimately, she couldn’t match the sheer quality of the effort from the French skipper.
Corinne Diacre will be very, very pleased with her team’s quite brilliant performance tonight. From a more general perspective, women’s football fans and officials can rest easy tonight knowing the future of the game looks very bright. The quality of football played tonight was quite brilliant – so good I’m sure it was a very pleasant surprise for every new-comer to the women’s game.