My personal blog on Scottish Women's Football
Despite a well-organised and disciplined defensive performance from England, they could not stop France scoring as they were defeated 1-0. Mark Sampson named a defensive minded 4-1-4-1, with full back Lucy Bronze on the left-wing to deal with Elodie Thomis’ pace. Fara Williams at times played as a third centre-back, whilst Ellen White was placed on the right-wing. The England side knew their defensive positioning but struggled with ball retention, and it was this that allowed Eugenie Le Sommer to score the tie’s only goal.
In the second half, England played with more attacking intent, but they never seemed to have the final ball to threaten France. The defeat makes their game on Saturday against Mexico a must-win.
England had the best of the opening minutes, winning a couple of corners but the deliveries from Eniola Aluko never troubled the French defence.
France started controlling the ball better and had a couple of early chances with Laure Boulleau’s shot being blocked and Camille Abily missing the target with her header.
On the rare moments, England got forward, the tenacity of Aluko and Jill Scott caused the French problems, but it was the case of the final ball being not good enough.
However, when France were getting the ball into dangerous positions, the England defence used their physicality to their advantage to draw the fouls – with Claire Rafferty doing this a couple of times against Thomis.
But England were often trying to be clever with the ball in dangerous places and instead of clearing, tried to find the pass – and this led to France’s winner. Eugenie Le Sommer robbed Katie Chapman off the possession before she fired the ball into the right corner of the net. England’s keeper Karen Bardsley was unsighted, but will be disappointed as although she got a hand to it, she failed to save it.
The goal instilled confidence into the French, and from a corner, Louisa Necib’s quick feet and trickery saw her break into the box, but her shot could only find the side-netting.
England had their best chance so far in the 41st minute. The French keeper Sarah Bouhaddi came to punch Alex Scott’s cross, but Laura Georges headed it to Katie Chapman who tried to lob the keeper, but her effort went wide.
In the closing stages of the first half, France should have had a penalty. Le Sommer played Jessica Houara into the box, but she overhit her cross to the far post. But just after her cross, she was taken out by Rafferty’s sliding challenge.
France had the first chance of the second half, but Le Sommer’s long range shot was hit with venom, but straight at Bardsley. Then Boullealu picked out Le Sommer unmarked in the box, but she failed to hit the target.
England though, had more attacking intent, and great pressuring from Aluko won England a corner. Aluko’s whipped delivery found Jill Scott’s run, but her shot was saved by Bouhaddi. The introduction of Toni Duggan and Fran Kirby saw a switch to a 4-3-3.
There was a moment of controversy in the 70th minute. Necib dinked a dangerous ball into the box, which eventually allowed Abily to get a shot off which Bardsley saved. But in the challenge with Laura Bassett, Abily clearly deliberately elbowed the England defender who was left with a shiner.
In the later stages, France was happy to just keep the ball with their chances coming from long range, without ever troubling Bardsley. England though were getting into dangerous attacking positions, but they never seemed to find the right ball.
However, in second-half stoppage time, England had a couple of half-chances. A deflection set the ball up nicely for Aluko, but she snatched at her shot which went over. And then, just as it looked Aluko’s flick had played Kirby in, Boulleau’s last ditch tackle robbed the Reading player’s chance of becoming a hero.
Woman of the Match
It is a hard one to pick, but I’m going for Louisa Necib who was at the heart of France.
France: Bouhaddi, Houara, Georges, Renard, Boulleau, Thomis (Dali 71), Henry, Abily, Necib (Lavogez 87), Le Sommer (Bussaglia 81), Thiney.
Goal: Le Sommer 29.
England: Bardsley, Alex Scott (Kirby 68), Houghton, Bassett, Rafferty, Williams, White (Duggan 61), Jill Scott, Chapman (Moore 76), Bronze, Aluko.
Booked: Chapman 65.