France’s women took the first step to follow in the World Cup footsteps of the French men. Wendie Renard, at 6-foot-2 the tallest player in the tournament, scored twice on headers off corner kicks, and Les Bleues overwhelmed South Korea 4-0 Friday night in a gala World Cup opener.
Eugenie Le Sommer and Amandine Henry also got goals on a cool, windy night at Parc des Princes, the home of Paris Saint-Germain. French pop star Jain provided the pregame entertainment for the sellout crowd of 45,261, and French President Emmanuel Macron was among the spectators singing “La Marseillaise” and looking on.
“We knew that it was going to be a really emotional evening. But I think we managed it well,” Renard said. “When you have more than 45,000 people singing the French national anthem, obviously it drives you forward.”
France is hosting the tournament at a time when women’s teams are increasing their push for equal treatment from FIFA and other soccer governing bodies. It is vying to become the first nation to hold both the men’s and women’s World Cup titles at the same time.
“I’m sure people expect or hope, and the same goes for us, we’d like to follow in the footsteps of the senior men’s national team,” French coach Corinne Diacre said. “But everything takes time. We won tonight, but we haven’t still won anything. We have six more steps on the road that need to be taken. We need to be serious and focused for six games, and then we’ll see what comes of it.”
Norway and Nigeria meet in the other Group A opener on Saturday. France faces Norway on Wednesday and Nigeria on June 17. France’s margin of victory was the largest in a Women’s World Cup opener since China beat Norway by the same score at the first tournament in 1991. Four years ago, all nine teams that won their opener advanced from the 24-nation group stage to the round of 16.
The world’s fourth-ranked team wasn’t tested by No. 14 South Korea. France had a 17-0 advantage in shots during the first half and 21-4 overall. Les Bleus, eliminated by Germany on penalty kicks in the quarterfinals four years ago in Canada, applied pressure from the start on goalkeeper Kim Minjung.
Le Sommer scored in the ninth minute off a cross from Henry and held up her hands in the shape of a heart in celebration after her 75th international goal, the earliest in a Women’s World Cup opener. South Korea has conceded the first goal in all eight World Cup games it has played. Griedge Mbock Bathy appeared to score in the 30th minute but the goal was disallowed in a video review, technology also used by FIFA at last year’s men’s tournament in Russia.
“On the spur of the moment you’re happy and when the goal’s disallowed it’s frustrating, but you have to switch quickly,” she said. “We had a lot of time left and we had a lot of opportunities to score.” Renard doubled the lead in the 35th from Gaetane Thiney’s corner kick as the crowd chanted “Wendie! Wendie!” (PTI)