Li Ying scored with a brilliant first-half volley to earn China victory over debutants South Africa, who face elimination from the Women’s World Cup.
The result means Group B rivals Germany qualify for the last 16, with China and Spain hoping to join them.
After an uneventful first 40 minutes, Li brought the Parc des Princes crowd to their feet when she converted Zhang Rui’s pinpoint delivery.
Wang Shanshan went close with a header that hit the bar and came off the line.
South Africa looked like they could cause the Asian side problems on the counter-attack but they lacked accurate final balls.
Africa’s player of the year Thembi Kgatlana, who scored against Spain in the 3-1 defeat, produced Banyana Banyana’s best chance when she burst into the area and fired into the side-netting.
Her team-mate Kholosa Biyana launched an effort from 25 yards but it was easily dealt with by Jiangsu Suning goalkeeper Peng Shimeng.
South Africa will need to defeat two-time champions Germany in their final match by a handsome margin to qualify for the last 16.
‘We’re getting close to the top teams’
China coach Jia Xiuquan: “The victory belongs to all players – they deserve it. The battle has just begun and there will be tough games ahead. I hope to laugh at the very last moment.
“I hope the players can exhibit their true ability – their desire to win has impressed me the most over the past year. This has given me courage to lead them, and they have done a great job today.
“Today we executed our plan. The game unfolded as we planned.”
South Africa coach Desiree Ellis: “They were once again magnificent. We conceded from a set-piece and lost concentration there. We had ample opportunities.
“We said it would be a battle and like a final. Tonight we showed we are getting close to the top teams. We gave as good as they gave.
“My players put their bodies on the line.”
Shot-shy in Paris – the stats
- China are unbeaten at the Women’s World Cup when they’ve opened the scoring, winning 15 of the 16 games that they’ve netted first in (D1).
- South Africa are the fourth different African team to lose their first two games in the Women’s World Cup, along with Nigeria (1991), Equatorial Guinea (2011) and the Ivory Coast (2015).
- Li Ying was China’s 23rd different goalscorer at the Women’s World Cup (excluding own goals); only four nations have had more scorers in the competition (Germany 34, USA 32, Norway 29, Sweden 25).
- China’s Wang Shuang created five chances for her team-mates in this game; the most by a Chinese player in a Women’s World Cup game across the last two tournaments (2015 and 2019).
- There were just four shots on target in this game (one for South Africa and three for China) – only one game has had fewer in the 2019 Women’s World Cup so far (three between Argentina and Japan).