The Home Nations make a statement of intent but how far can they go?
The opening round of the Women’s World Cup saw England meet archrivals Scotland. For a game that attracted a larger viewing audience than England’s Cricket World Cup match the same day, the level and quality of the game itself was certainly worthy of the viewership.
But if this World Cup has finally piqued the British public’s attention, how will the Home Nations fare in France this time round?
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England show glimpses of brilliance but need to find an edge
England headed to France this summer with a solid recent record since manager Phil Neville took over in March 2018. The Lionesses have only lost four games since then, the only competitive loss coming to world champions the United States way back at the 2018 She Believes Cup.
Since then the English have gone on to win the 2019 edition of that tournament, making a serious statement of intent to other contenders for the title at this year’s World Cup.
Their final warm up match against New Zealand on 1 June revealed the one major weakness this English side is carrying – the ability to break teams down and finish them off. England managed 15 shots at goal and dominated possession but still managed to lose to a largely inferior Kiwi outfit.
Phil Neville’s side looked to push on from that disappointment and started with serious intent in the opener against Scotland. A driving English cross into the box resulted in a VAR awarded penalty which young talent Nikita Parris confidently slotted away.
Just before half time Birmingham City forward Ellen White forcibly finished to give England a 2-0 goal cushion going into the break.
The first half of England’s World Cup opener will give the players, coaches and fans alike a lot to be excited about, but the second half will have the doubters murmuring in front of their boxes.
England allowed their northern neighbours more time on the ball as well as inroads to press, which could’ve proven more costly than the 2-1 scoreline suggests.
England will have to tighten at the back when put under pressure. More importantly they need to make the most of their chances. The big hitters such as the USA, Germany and France will be much less forgiving.
If England can find the guile and creativity in the final third to match the talent and experience they already possess, there’s no reason why they can’t go all the way.
Scotland’s stuttering start shows serious intent
Scotland have been making great strides as of late and the World Cup debutantes are already showing why they deserve to be at this tournament.
Bouncing on from a Euro 2017 campaign that was very much a learning curve, Shelley Kerr’s side went on to top their World Cup qualifying group to book a place at the finals in France this summer.
The Scots will be ruing their bad luck after drawing England at the group stage at a second consecutive tournament. This was an England side that two years ago at the Euros saw them off 6-0. It was a different story this time round.
The opener was a game of two halves for both countries, but it’s Scotland who can take most away from the result. In terms of performance it has set down a marker of how far they’ve come in such a short space of time.
There has been some hype about this Scotland side leading into the tournament, who have many promising talents among their ranks. The first half against England failed to prop much of the positive talk.
Scotland looked nervous, edgy and out of their depth. A VAR awarded penalty on the 14th minute did little to ease their initial misgivings. The second half was a different story. The Scots attacked with intent belying why their squad feature for some of the world game’s best club sides.
Perhaps it was nerves, perhaps it was tactics, but the second half demonstrated that Scotland have the best chance of qualifying for the knockout stages when they take the game into their own hands.
If they can find the confidence going into games against Japan and Argentina who look flat and out of sorts then Scotland will find themselves making it out of the group stages and making history.
Adam Grimshaw – @adamgeorgie