Can England Bring Football Home this summer?
The England Women’s Football team are in action at the World Cup in France and are one of the favourites for the tournament being ranked 3rd in the World. They have got maximum points from the two opening group games from a 2-1 win over Scotland and 1-0 success over Argentina. These 2 wins should have been more comfortable with England being guilty of stepping of the gas in second half against Scotland and missing chances against Argentina, including a first half penalty which was saved by the excellent argentine goalkeeper Vanina Correa.
They now head into a group decider against Japan on Wednesday night where a point would be enough to top the group, meanwhile Scotland will have to win and hope to qualify as one of the best 3rd place sides. England will have to improve if they are to go all the way particularly in their conversation of chances and openings, they had numerous opportunities where the final ball or shot was not good enough against Argentina.
So who holds the key for England? I have been impressed with winger Nikita Parris she scored a penalty against Scotland and then missed one against Argentina and has generally looked England’s most creative outlet. Her partnership with Lucy Bronze (world’s best player according to Phil Neville) on England’s right flank has been outlined as England’s major weapon. They showed why against the Scots However the left sided combination of Mead and Greenwood were the source of many England attacks vs Argentina.
Jodie Taylor has a fantastic scoring record at championships having scored five times at Euro 2017 where England reached the semi-finals and once at the 2015 World Cup, where England finished third, she once again showed she has an appetite for the big occasion as it was her who got the winner against Argentina. The goal came following a rare attack from the argentines which left space for England to counter attack and put together a flowing move which led to Taylor’s goal and the 33-year-old, who had not scored since a World Cup qualifier in April 2018 – or in 363 minutes of football – celebrated her 18th England goal with enthusiasm.
Steph Haughton and Jill Scott provide the leadership and toughness whilst Fran Kirby is a big creative talent in the number 10 role. Fran disappointed slightly against Scotland however tuned in a much brighter performance against Argentina.
Manager Phil Neville has caused controversy by adopting a rotation system, even leaving out long term goalkeeper Karen Bardsley in favour of Carly Telford in Argentina match. Neville does have strong squad depth with players of the ilk of Karen Carney, Ellen White and Toni Duggan waiting to make their mark. Carney is the longest-serving player in the squad, having made her debut 14 years ago. She’s played in 32 games at major tournaments – more than any other England player, male or female and is a creative alternative. Duggan has returned to full training after missing victories over Scotland and Argentina but is available to face Japan and is one of England’s biggest talents earing her a move to Barcelona. White started against Scotland in favour of Taylor and showed her scoring touch by doubling the lead.
If England win the group, they take on the best third-placed side from either Group B, E or F (currently China, Cameroon or Chile). A quarter-final in Le Havre would be next in store against the winner of a match between the runners-up of Group A and Group C (currently Norway and Australia). If the Lionesses finish runners-up in the group, they take on the winner of Group E which is likely to be Canada or the Netherlands in Rennes. A quarter-final in Valenciennes would follow against either the winner of Group C (Brazil, Italy or Australia) or the best third-placed team from Groups A (Norway/Nigeria), B (Spain/China) or F (likely Chile).
The other major contenders for the trophy are USA who are ranked 1st in the world and won 13-0 against Thailand, Hosts France and Germany have gained a maximum 9 points from their groups. Brazil have the record scorer at the Women’s World Cup and possibly the greatest women’s players of all time. However lost to Australia and could face elimination if they lose to group leaders Italy and the Netherlands are the European Champions.