The FIFA Women’s World Cup kicks off in Paris at the famous Parc des Princes with the host nation, France, taking on South Korea. France are expected to top Group A and will be hoping to start off strong and send a message to other opponents in the competition, as well as carry on the momentum. South Korea, who will be participating in their third ever FIFA Women’s World Cup, will be hoping to cause an upset that would help them make it to the knockout rounds. This tactical analysis will use statistics to analyse how both teams are expected to line up, what formations they’ll play with, and the tactics they will use, as they will attempt to kick off their first match of the tournament with a win.
France will be expected to line up in their 4-2-3-1 formation, with fullbacks Majri and Torrent playing high and wide while in possession. With Henry and Bussaglia covering for them, the two fullbacks along with the Thiney, Le Sommer, Cascarino, and Gauvin create an overload of attackers in the box, which is often too much for the opposition to handle.
South Korea will be expected to line up in their 4-1-4-1 formation. While France are in attack, South Korea will be hoping to defend in deep blocks, suffocating France’s attack, and hoping to threaten the hosts on the counter-attack. However, in France’s half, they will not sit back, instead opting to press, hoping France hit meaningless long balls.
France as favourites
It is no secret that France come into this match as favourites. Seven out of the expected starting XI play club football for Olympique Lyonnais Féminin, the most dominant women’s club in world football. The club has just won their fourth consecutive Champions League, after comfortably beating Barcelona 4-1. Since 2010, they have made the final every year, except once, and have comfortably won the league every year for the past decade. With three trebles in the last four seasons, the Lyon players will be hoping to transfer their success internationally.
The France attacking players play at their best when the opposition plays with a high line. This allows them to use the four wide players to cross into the box and create multiple chances. However, South Korea will defend deep and conservatively. France are experienced enough to have various plans of attack depending on the opposition’s defensive display. When France are unable to press teams, they look to use the individual talent of several of their players who can carve defences open with passes. Thiney as the furthest forward midfielder often takes similar positions to a second striker, which allows her to drag defenders out of position, freeing up space for the striker, and the wide players. She can get the ball to her feet, force defenders to cover her, and then find the likes of Le Sommer and Cascarino who are not being marked.
France’s weak spot
It’s hard to find an area in which France aren’t dominant in. However, if there is one area in which South Korea can exploit, it is the goalkeeper. Thirty-two-year-old Bouhaddi is France’s starting keeper, and while she does have her moments, she can be susceptible to mistakes. Her average save percentage this season is a mere 46%. Every game this season in which she kept a clean sheet, she was not forced to make a single save. Her long pass distribution is average as well, with an average 68% success rate.
If South Korea exploit Bouhaddi’s weaknesses, they give themselves a better chance of getting a result. Pressing her while she is on the ball can lead to her making inaccurate short and long passes. Constantly testing her below-par shot stopping abilities by taking multiple shots. South Korea, on average, have taken ten shots in their last ten games, and they must take a high number of shots come opening match to test Bouhaddi as much as possible.
South Korea’s attack
South Korea will surely come into this match playing on the counter-attack. Knowing that France will play with a high line, South Korea will hope that their pressing in France’s half can lead to catching the defence too high up the pitch. South Korea press in a way to put pressure on the opposition player that has the ball, hoping they go long, and that South Korea can win the second ball.
When the ball turns over, and South Korea, they play triangle passes in quick succession. Cho So Hyun is the anchor in midfield. The West Ham midfielder’s role will be to drop in deep and collect the ball from the defenders and create for the forward line. Cho is extremely press resistant which will help South Korea bypass the press from France’s midfielders, Henry and Bussaglia. She will be hoping to get one or both of Henry and Bussaglia to press her, which will create gaps behind them for the wide wingers to run into.
Ji So Yun will also be vital to South Korea’s attack. South Korea’s striker Lee Geum Min is incredibly selfless in that her main role is to occupy the defenders and drag them out of position. This allows Ji to do what she does best in the most amount of space. She continually makes forward runs, averaging five touches in the box per 90 minutes. Taking approximately four shots per match, if South Korea were to get a result, Ji will have had a massive impact. Renard and Tounkara will have their hands full in trying to defend the Chelsea midfielder.
France should be looking to win all three of their group games. This golden generation has often fallen short when it really mattered, crashing out at the quarter-finals in two consecutive tournaments. Winning their matches comfortably will allow them to build confidence that can be taken into the latter stages of the competition.
South Korea’s coach Yoon Deok-yeo has built a formidable side, taking South Korea to back to back FIFA Women’s World Cup’s for the first time in their history. They are not expected to win this game, instead, hoping to take points off Norway, and Nigeria in the groups in order to progress through to the round of 16. However, a result in their first game against the tournament hosts, would put them in a much comfortable position heading into the Round of 16.
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