My personal blog on Scottish Women's Football
England Women’s latest friendly in their build up to the Women’s World Cup continued with another defeat, this time against the USA.
The first thing to point out is that England’s performance will not strike fear into any of the big countries, such as Germany and the USA. But Mark Sampson has had a difficult transition from qualifying. In their qualifying campaign, they were regularly winning games by large margins such as 6-0. They had even beaten Montenegro 9-0 and 10-0. When you have groups like this, where Ukraine and Wales were the nearest threats but without the quality to dominate England, is it is really hardy to judge Sampson.
Clearly his England team has a lot attacking quality, but as was shown in the historic Wembley friendly against Germany where the Germans were 3-0 up at half-time (FT score England 0-3 Germany) – you need the defensive backbone to challenge at major tournaments. It was this defensive fragility that saw England finish bottom of their group in the 2013 European Championships.
England’s 2015 World Cup group starts with a tough tie against France, who had beaten them 3-0 at the Euros. It is important that England gets a confidence-inspiring result from that match, if they are to reach the final stages of the tournament.
So lets look at the positives of the USA game. Firstly, England did not start with Eniola Aluko and Lianne Sanderson who would most likely start, and they were missing the services of Toni Duggan who is out with a knee-injury. Sampson had also deployed an extra midfielder as well as playing with more discipline.
Apart from one moment of slack defending that allowed USA’s Lauren Holiday too much time to pick her cross which allowed Alex Morgan to score – England defended very well.
It should also be pointed out that the England players are currently in their pre-season (although the same is true for the Americans), and most importantly, that Jodie Taylor had a goal wrongly ruled out for offside. When Fran Kirby’s took her shot, Taylor was onside and she reacted well from score from the keeper’s save. This happened in the 56th minute, and it would have been interesting to see the game that would have followed, if the right call had been made.
What they need to improve on though is controlling the game. USA had 69% of the possession and they used it brilliantly to pin England in their own half. England needed to control the ball, pass it around midfield instead of seeming to be in a hurry to clear the ball. They also needed to break quicker, and in greater numbers – which they managed to do when Aluko and Sanderson were introduced late on in the game.
So overall, it was not a brilliant performance from England. But there is something to build on. Sampson has learnt from his mistakes against Germany, and that will improve England. The Cyprus Cup in March will show whether this England squad can now increase their attacking threat, whilst maintaining a strong defensive discipline. If they can do that during the Cyprus Cup, then suddenly the World Cup seems a closer dream.