France steamroll Korea Republic, book quarterfinal date vs. Germany

The Women’s World Cup quarterfinals will start with a clash of giants Friday afternoon in Montreal.

Third-ranked France ensured that they would face No. 1 Germany in that showdown, needing just eight minutes to impose their will on the Korea Republic Sunday afternoon in Montreal. Goals from Marie Laure Delie and Elodie Thomis left the Koreans chasing shadows and put France on the road to a 3-0 victory in their Round of 16 match.

The French picked the Korea Republic defense apart with a dazzling four-pass movement that sprung Delie to slide the ball into the far corner four minutes after the kickoff.  Left back Laure Boulleau made the surging run which opened the Koreans on the left, exchanged passes with Louisa Necib, then slipped a drop pass for Delie, who stepped deftly over the ball and clipped it well wide of stranded keeper Kim Jung-Mi.

Thomis split the defense four minutes later, found a passing partner in Eugenie Le Sommer and beat Kim Jung-Mi again from close range as France continued in full-throttle mode. If they weren’t already thinking of a quarterfinal test against the strong Germans after Delie’s opener, Thomis’ finish certainly gave them reason to believe a spot in the last eight was clearly beckoning.

Jung-Mi was then down for lengthy treatment around the 19th minute after she came off her line to a free kick and caught the elbow of teammate Park Eun-Sun in her face. The damage was a significant swelling of the cheekbone area beneath her right eye, but she soldiered on despite the injury.

France was on the lookout for more the remainder of the half, having only occasionally to deal with a Korean attack or potentially troublesome free kick. Goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi did spill one of those, but the error was immediately cleaned up by the defense.

At the Korean end, Le Sommer just missed in the 31st minute, pulling a cross from the attacking Boulleau past the right post and Delie broke in clean on the right only to see her shot well-saved in the 40th minute.   

The unlucky Korea Republic keeper took another significant blow to the head in stoppage time, French defender Wendie Renard colliding with her as she leapt for a cross that Kim had to come of her line to attack. She was still on the ground, receiving treatment when the referee sent the players into the locker rooms for halftime.

Le Sommer iced the match immediately after the break when she drove endline around three Korea Republic defenders, then cut the ball back for Delie to put an easy sidefoot home. It was Delie’s second of the night and utterly deflated Korea Republic, who simply could not get a hold of the ball. Les Bleues simply passed the ball through and around the Korea Republic midfield for the rest of the night, clearly with one eye on their next opponents.

Sub Yoo Young-ah tried to haul the Koreans back into the game in the 75th minute, testing Bouhaddi with a stinger from range, but the French keeper was able to tip the shot over the bar with ease.

While the French coasted on Sunday night, they will face a far sterner test on Friday. Les Bleues have not always shown that killer instinct, and as Colombia showed, they can be smacked back. But when allowed to hold the ball and pass it as fluently as they did vs. Korea Republic, France can beat anyone.

No wonder so many are eagerly looking forward to their meeting against Germany — and so many feel it will in fact be the de facto Women’s World Cup final decider.