The opening fixture of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup took place tonight between hosts France and Ji So-Yun’s South Korea; Blues playmaker was left disappointed after suffering a 4-0 defeat in front of a sold-out crowd at the Parc des Princes in Paris.
The opening ceremony of the eighth edition of the World Cup was spectacular, it saw hundreds of dancers take to the pitch and French musician, Jain, entertain the crowd from the centre spot with a beautiful song – the atmosphere within the stadium of 45.261 fans was truly electric.
The last time South Korea met France was four years ago at the last World Cup in Canada in a knockout tie, and like tonight they were outclassed by a ruthless French side.
The Chelsea no.10 was up against many familiar faces as nine French players in the starting line-up play their domestic football at Olympique Lyonnais and Paris Saint-Germain - who we came up against in the Champions League last season.
Ji played in her usual role behind the striker but as the game progressed, she took on a deeper role, often coming to her team's rescue by intercepting the ball in key moments.
As perhaps expected, the tournament hosts were on the front foot and relentless in attack. They took the lead just inside of 10 minutes when Amandine Henry of Lyon burst clear down the right flank and delivered a ball into her OL team-mate, Eugenie Le Sommer, to drill home. Not an ideal start for Ji who gathered her team into a huddle immediately after the goal.
VAR played its part for the first time ever in a Women’s World Cup finals and luckily for Ji and her team-mates, it was in their favour as PSG striker Kadidiatou Diani’s effort was ruled out as offside.France added further damage in the first half when Gaetane Thiney knocked a corner ball into a busy box for Wendie Renard to tower above her marker and head powerfully into the back of the net. South Korea continued to work tirelessly hard and defended for their lives, but France did not take their foot off the gas and continued to cause problems for the Asians.
South Korea went into the break 3-0 down due to Renard, who earnt a brace when she directed another headed effort beyond the Asian goalkeeper in added time.
Midway through the second half, Ji picked up the ball from deep in midfield and threaded through the advancing Kang Chaerim. This enabled the right-winger to test Sarah Bouhaddi in the French goal for the first time, which was one of the South Korean’s only notable chances.
South Korea went close to bagging themselves a consolation goal when substitute Lee Sodam raced forward and capitalised on Renard’s defensive mishap, however the midfielder's low drive unfortunately flew the wrong side of the post.
Although a defeat for Ji in her opening fixture will hurt, South Korea almost managed to contain the hosts in the second half. However, Henry added salt to the wound when she slammed the ball into the top corner on the 85th minute.
Ji’s next group stage game is against Nigeria on 12 June and five days later she will face Norway and her Chelsea team-mates, Maren Mjelde and Maria Thorisdottir.
It’s vital that South Korea register some points in their remaining group matches to ensure that they progress to the knockout stages and Ji told the official Chelsea website: ‘It was hard tonight, I knew it would be difficult. We really tried our best but we lost 4-0. We have two more games left so we next to focus on those games now.’