FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 Tactical Analysis: France vs South Korea
The splendid Parc des Princés hosted the Women’s World Cup match between France and South Korea. The last time both sides met it didn’t end up well for the Taeguk ladies as they were knocked out in the round of 16 by a 3-0 scoreline.
Being both the host and the favorite, Corinne Diacre’s side was expected to secure three points. With a golden generation in their core, they want to lift the trophy with their home fans. On the other side, three times participant South Korea could be in line for an upset. They aim to make history by going further compared to the last competition. The opening match could create great momentum for them in accomplishing what they intended.
But on the field, things started to fall apart quickly for the away side. Three goals inside the first half saw France heading into the break with a comfortable lead. Amandine Henry’s goal at the 85th minute put the icing on their win and secured three points for the host.
This tactical analysis will help you take a closer look at how South Korea came out as second-best in the game. Meanwhile, using statistics, we will analyse the factors that led to France’s dominant win.
Diacre opted to line her side up in a 4-3-3, with the player of the match Wendie Renard playing alongside Griedge Mbock Bathy in the centre of their defence. Out wide, Amel Majri and Marion Torrent occupied the full-back positions. Captain Amandine Henry completed the midfield line that consists of Elise Bussaglia and Gaetane Thiney. Up front, France’s goal machine Eugenie Le Sommer led the line with Kadidiatou Diani and Delphine Cascarino.
France (4-3-3): Sarah Bouhaddi; Amel Majri, Wendie Renard, Griedge Mbock Bathy, Marion Torrent; Elise Bussaglia, Gaetane Thiney, Amandine Henry; Eugenie Le Sommer, Kadidiatou Diani, Delphine Cascarino
Yoon went for an unchanged 4-2-3-1 with a view of turning into a 4-3-3 from their friendly against Sweden. Captain Cho So-hyun and Lee Young-ju played as central midfielders and their responsibility was to protect the back line. Ji So-yun continued to act as the team’s playmaker as she played alongside Lee Geum-min and Kang Yu-mi. They would provide support for the lone striker, Jung Seol-bin.
South Korea (4-2-3-1): Kim Jung-min; Jang Sel-gi, Kim Do-yeon, Hwang Bo-ram, Kim Hye-ri; Cho So-hyun, Lee Young-ju; Lee Geum-min, Ji So-yun, Kang Yu-mi; Jung Seol-bin
France dominated both statistically and tactically
It’s easy to understand how France dominated the match just by looking through the stats. 21 attempts on goal and eight of them were on target, not to mention half of them were converted into goals. They had 60% of the possession compared to South Korea’s 40%. 619 passes were made and 87% of them found their destination. Those numbers were truly outstanding and it shows how strong the French are now.
They also outclassed their opponent from the tactical point of view. Defensively, they pressed high up the pitch and in a very intelligent way. When the ball entered the middle third, the nearest French striker would close down the ball carrier. Other strikers would mark the nearest possible passing option.
At the same time, the peripheral central midfielders also join the press. Their responsibility was to follow South Korea’s central midfielders and prevent them from offering a passing option. If possible, they would also mark Ji So-yun up. The Chelsea playmaker could drop deep to pick up the ball and start a counter-attack. Olympique Lyonnais Féminin’s players know her so well and they wanted to limit her creativity. This is one of the reasons that made South Korea struggle in building attacks.
They tended to focus their press on one side as this would allow them to create overloads in a certain area. If they managed to win the ball back, they could even start a counter-attack from that side, like the situation below. When South Korea played out from the back, five French players moved into the central area and the right flank. With no possible passing options, the South Korean defender was forced to make a back pass.
When that happened, Henry and Diani approached Lee Young-ju, who had just received the ball, and won the ball back. The surprise press forced South Korea players to retreat immediately. But they were a bit slower than Le Sommer and Diani as both were in an active state to receive the ball. It’s also worth noticing that huge space was created in front of the French strikers and they could capitalise that easily.
When in possession, they tended to create overloads on both flanks using high positioned full-backs. Majri and Torrent usually overlapped and were always ready to make crosses into the box. Meanwhile, the wide strikers, Le Sommer and Cascarino occupied the half-spaces. They would provide a passing option if a crossing option was not available.
It is important that Diacre always keeps her full-backs fresh because they are France’s key attacking method. They also have to press high up the pitch or retreat into their own half as soon as possible to provide support for the centre-backs. That is why when she noticed Majri picked up a knock, she replaced the left-back with Eve Perisset at the 74th minute.
On some occasions, France players tended to circulate the ball inside the middle third. This strategy would stretch South Korea’s defensive structure out and allowed players to move into channels. Renard and Mbock Bathy usually brought the ball out of defence and then laid it off to Henry, who usually played as a half-back. At times, Elise Bussaglia could also drop deep and pick up the ball.
South Korea didn’t tend to press high, instead, they would retreat into their own half and form the defensive structure which we will analyse more thoroughly later in the article. It allowed France’s players to hold the ball and that fact contributed a lot to the 60% ball possession.
How South Korea dealt with the game
The Taeguk ladies tried their best to match France. Unfortunately, it wasn’t their day as the hosts totally outplayed them. Throughout the match, they were forced to sit deep to deal with France’s attacking threat. By forming a 4-1-4-1 defensive structure when not in possession, they somewhat managed to limit the threat.
As seen in the friendlies and the Cup of Nations, usually Cho So-hyun would play in between the lines. Sometimes, she even drops in between the centre-backs like the shot below. This would create an overload outside and inside the box when they retreated. The wingers and strikers also dropped deep and formed the first defensive line. Their responsibility was to prevent any through balls or one-two passes that came towards the box.
The second defensive line was more flexible because they have to stretch out and prevent crosses from out wide. Usually, the nearest full-back would step out and mark the wide striker or the opposite overlapping full-backs. The winger in front of her could provide support and create a 2v2 situation on the flank.
On the other side of the pitch, they also tried to press the opponent. The striker usually dropped deep to create a pressure zone with the midfielders. But bad timing and the conservative press prevented them from stopping through balls into their own half. They also left many players outside the zone and it allowed the French to make their way into the final third.
Poor positioning was one of the factors that caused South Korea’s devastating loss. As this shot below shows, although South Korea had the numerical superiority inside the final third, they left a space between the centre-backs for Le Somme to capitalise on. France exploited this a lot in the match and many of their goals came from a similar situation.
Inside the final third, they also tried many methods and created chances towards Sarah Bouhaddi’s goal. One of the methods was lofted through balls. France tended to play with a high defensive line and that created spaces behind their line. Using Ji So-yun’s pace, they would break into the space between defenders and start a counter-attack. Unfortunately, Renard and Mbock Bathy’s aerial superiority stopped the majority of those chances.
Inside the last 30 minutes of the second half, they tried to use long balls from the defenders. Again, the target was the space behind France’s defensive line. It did bring significant chances for the Taeguk ladies when substitutes Kang Chae-rim and Lee Mi-na came close to a goal.
This match was a clear message for other opponents of how strong France are. They have dominated South Korea and won with a four-goal deficit. A good start was what they wanted before the match and this could build confidence and create a momentum for something big.
For the away side, coach Yoon Duk-yeo has a lot of work to do after this loss. They shouldn’t see this match as a setback but as an opportunity to fix the problems that they are having. Two matches against Nigeria and Norway are still waiting for them. And the Asian-based side should step up their game if they still hope to make it further than the round of 16.
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