The early hours of this morning saw some finesse from the England royal highnesses, the Lionesses, to go top of group D. Despite some South American goalkeeping heroics, the 1-0 victory over Argentina means England have a final 16 spot in the teabag.
For the second time in just over 24 hours, I was up and awake in darkness equivalent to 3pm on an English wintery afternoon and feeling like an absolute athlete sporting my Nike trackies on the couch (Again, can I please emphasise #GetOnside).
In a subtle throwback to Gareth Southgate standing stoically on the sidelines as a modern-day symbol of “it’s coming home”, Phil Neville donned the same dapper baby blue shirt (quick royal fans, it’s probably a hint at a baby’s gender somewhere along the lines) and waistcoat that leave other coaching attire dead in the water. Although in contrast to the stadium shenanigans last year, the lack of beer in Stade Océane meant we saw a different calibre of England fans than we are perhaps used to.
Surprisingly, there were four changes to the line-up from the Lionesses previous game where they were victorious over the Scots, including a keeper swap. Bardsley, Walsh, Bright, and White were all dropped to the bench in favour of starts for Taylor, Telford, Moore, and McManus. Unfortunately, Stokes didn’t make it off the bench so we never did find out whether Argentina could do it on a cold, French night against Stokes.
From the land that gave us One-Direction, England gave us what was later described as a one-dimensional game plan; attack with little variation. In contrast, Argentina’s tactics were clear; defend like hell, try and get them on the counter, and take out Lucy Bronze whenever she gets possession.
The Lionesses started the warning shots early and it seemed as if this could become a one-way English Channel affair, however England were largely let down by their poor finishing. Scott had the chance for the opener in the 12th, but her header went straight to the keeper. Making things harder for Argentinian keeper Correa, was a near own goal in the 24th that only trickled past the outer edge of the post by the smallest of margins. In contrast, down the other end, Telford only saw her first touch of the ball after the opening 20 minutes and didn’t have to defend a single corner for the entire game.
In the 26th, Bravo committed a clumsy foul on Greenwood in the box for a spot-kick to be awarded. I must say it was refreshing for a clear-as-day penalty to be awarded without VAR somehow denying it like the moon landing. Parris, who’s impact had largely been successfully limited by the Argentinians in the opening quarter hour, stepped up to the spot. Get this in and she could be the most talked about Parris in France. Alas, Parris’ effort was denied by a full-stretch warrior Correa to be pushed out of harm’s way, and was chalked up as England’s first penalty miss in a WWC. Correa again had another career highlight save in the 41st, with Mead’s shot looking destined for goal, only to be denied by an important boot deflection.
England went into the sheds at half time spitting chips that they didn’t hold the advantage after the opening half. The first half was textbook proof that playing possession football, with McManus completing more passes than the entire Argentinian starting XI alone, does not always translate into goals on the board if you can’t capitalise on your chances.
Correa was called on again early in the second with her hattrick of amazing saves to stop Parris’ powerful shot in the 50th, and comfortably cradling Taylor’s close-range header effort a few minutes later.
Unfortunately for Argentina, Correa FC versus England could not be sustained for the full 90, with England eventually catching Argentina with their own tactics by scoring on the counter in the 61st. From what started from some great team play, Mead sent in a stunning cross for Taylor to find the back of the net. England had the chance to double their advantage through Scott in both the 65th and 72nd, however both efforts skimmed the crossbar and the game finished 1-0.
Despite the loss, the Argentinian ladies can hold their heads through limiting football big names Japan to a goalless draw and Correa being awarded player of the match by limiting England to a one-goal victory. On the other hand, the win for England meant they had started their World Cup with two consecutive wins for the first time. Argentina next meet the Scots for the final group game, whilst England hope to say Bollocks to Japan to take out ‘top of the group’ honours.
By Hayley Routley