The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup kicked off last Friday, with the hosts France taking on South Korea in the first game of the tournament. The country whose men’s team recently won the 2018 FIFA Men’s World Cup and hosted the 2016 UEFA Euro Cup was fully prepared for the most anticipated women’s tournament to date.
France beats South Korea 4-0
It was a comfortable 4-0 victory for the Les Bleues at the Parc des Princes against South Korea kicking off the women’s summer tournament. With 45,261 in attendance, the French fans got their money’s worth. It took only nine minutes for France to find the back of the net, as Amadine Henry broke down the right wing, pulling the ball back for Eugénie Le Sommer firing first time off the crossbar and in for the lead.
The hosts thought they had scored another, when Griedge Mbock Bathy hit a half-volley to the back of the net in the 29th minute, but it was disallowed after Video-Assistant Review (VAR) declared the goal marginally offside.
Les Bleues got the second eventually, when Wendie Renard was found unmarked in the box on a corner and she headed the ball home in the 35th minute. She had never scored before in a World Cup match, and she would get her brace in the same match right before halftime, coming from another corner where she rose above the South Korean defense to score.
South Korea could not respond in the second half, and a fourth goal from Les Bleues from the captain Henry, who scored an early contender for Goal of the Tournament with her beautiful curling effort from the edge of the box to the right side of the goal. The match would finish 4-0 to the hosts, with South Korea needing a lot of luck if they are to advance through the Group Stages.
Norway beats Nigeria 3-0
Match two of Group A kicked off Saturday, with two teams that have competed in all eight FIFA Women’s World Cups. Norway had the edge going into the match, having won all three of their previous games against Nigeria with a goal differential of plus 11.
Norway came out firing in the first half, scoring all three of their goals in the first 40 minutes. The first came from left midfielder Guro Reiten in the 17th minute, receiving the ball from Graham Hansen after playing a one-two from the corner, and finding the space to hit the ball off a Nigerian player and into the back of the net. The goal would stand as Reiten’s as the shot was on target.
The second came in the 34th minute, as Reiten played Lisa-Marie Utland perfectly through for her to one time the shot past Nigerian keeper Tochukwu Oluehi for the 2-0 lead. Only three minutes would pass until the next score, an own goal from Nigerian fullback Osinachi Ohale as she attempted to flick the cross away from goal but it ended up in the back of the net giving Norway a 3-0 lead.
The score would hold for the rest of the match, though each team traded chances throughout the match. Two games in Group A and two teams already in hot water in South Korea and Nigeria as Norway and France sit comfortable in the top two spots.
Germany beats China 1-0
Germany came into the match having not lost a match since the She Believes Cup in March 2018, while China had not won a game in 2019. Both sides did well in the 2015 tournament, China losing to the United States in the quarterfinals and Germany losing to the United States in the semifinals.
China looked the better team in the first half, having plenty of chances on goal but not capitalizing on a single one, while Germany did not look like a team that had not lost in over a year. But the German side would make China pay for not finishing their chances, as Giulia Gwinn would collect a poorly dealt with corner with a touch to settle it at the edge of the box before blasting the ball to the bottom left corner.
Gwinn’s single goal would stand as the only goal of the match, as the match did not live up to the standard of play set in the opening two matches of Group A. A small goal differential still leaves room for China to climb up the table after the loss in their first game, but they will need to win out to stay alive.
Spain beats South Africa 3-1
The first game with goals from both sides came in Spain against South Africa, in a game full of action. Spain won every qualifying match coming into the tournament, and were looking to not repeat their Group Stage exit from the 2015 tournament. It was South Africa’s first World Cup appearance, and Spain’s second.
The horrors of their 2015 tournament performance appeared early, as Spain fell 1-0 down in the 25th minute as Thembi Kgatlana scored a wonderful curling effort from the edge of the box to the top right corner. The score would stay at 1-0 going into the second half, despite domination of possession by Spain.
A 70th minute penalty brought the game level as South African defender Janine van Wyk would be penalized for handball as she attempted to block a cross into the box, and Jennifer Hermoso would send the keeper the wrong way to equalize.
A second penalty for Spain in the 82nd minute gave them the lead as VAR concluded Nothando Vilakazi’s tackle was studs up, leading to another Hermoso score and a second yellow for the South African fullback. Now down to ten-women, South Africa would concede another to Spain as Virginia Torrecilla played a great ball to Lucía García who took it around the keeper and tapped it home for the 3-1 lead.
Spain sits atop Group B on goal differential with Germany right behind in second. Group B could go any way as the small goal difference and tight games could see the table flipped by the end of the Group Stage.