Just as I talked about the “small margins” being the difference between winning and losing at a tournament like this, there are also “small moments” that decide games and allow teams to gain momentum. France looked slow, lethargic, plodding, just about any other synonym you could use in the first half, but just before they were about to go to the locker room to try to figure out what the hell was wrong, they get a corner kick, Laura Georges finds herself unmarked two yards from goal, France is relieved, and go on to destroy North Korea. But even with a big scoreline, I still have some questions.
1) France was still slow for most of the game
Bruno Bini is going to stick with the 4-2-3-1, we know that by now, he had Elise Bussaglia and Sandrine Soubeyrand in the holding midfield roles here and they just seemed to slow things down to a crawl, just as happened in the opener against the United States at times. Eugenie Le Sommer was inserted in a wide attacking role and she has a sparkling club record from the past year, but didn’t seem to be the answer there, either. You add in a clearly lacking in confidence goalkeeper in Sarah Bouhaddi, and there are plenty of questions that need to be answered if they’re going to break through and win a gold medal.
2) But then Camile Abily changed everything
I’m not going to kill Bini too much for leaving Abily on the bench to start, he wanted to give Le Sommer and Louisa Necib a chance and Abily is not really a holding midfielder. Or is she? When Abily was inserted for Soubeyrand, the game changed completely. Abily was spraying passes everywhere and North Korea was soon looking for the nearest exits. There are other reasons you can point to like a tiring North Korea squad or the speedy Elodie Thomis coming on at the same time as Abily (for Le Sommer), but the question is where does Bini go from here? A game with Colombia that doesn’t mean too much is next, so we’ll see if he shows his hand or not.
3) North Korea being North Korea
So, I go on and on about how Kim Song Hui could be a star in this tournament for North Korea after two goals against Colombia in the opening game, and then Sin Ui Gun does the most North Korean thing ever and doesn’t start her in the key game against France. Alright, maybe she was hurt, but then she comes flying on to the field in the 50th minute, just before things started to go really downhill. And then he went on to blame the delay with the flags for affecting his team adversely and causing them to be tired. Ironically, the only thing that should stop New Zealand or Canada from advancing if they finish third is the United States. If North Korea can steal a point, they’ll be through. Let’s hope not.
Only 53-47 France, which seems dubious, but does speak to some of the questions I asked earlier.