Onto group D we go, and the first team out is no other than England.
The football crazy nation that is England has quite a strong team, also called the Lionesses (further emphasising their strength), and they’ve steadily worked their way up to establish themselves as one of the top teams in this tournament. At the World Cup in 2015, they grabbed the bronze medal after beating Germany 1-0, and at the 2019 SheBelieves cup, they won against Brazil and Japan and drew with the United States to win the whole tournament for the first time. They were full of confidence throughout the qualification stages and on average they scored three goals a game and conceded only once. Still, neighbours Wales kept up with them and gave them something to fight for, but England managed to secure their qualification spot with a 3-0 win in Wales, with one game to spare.
This is a team that is full of big and promising names, and one of the biggest ones is without a doubt, Fran Kirby. The 25-year-old is, despite her wee frame, a huge threat to any defender she comes up against and the striker, both creative and intelligent in her play, scored two goals and set up another five on England’s road to France. Other dangerous goal scorers include Toni Duggan, Nikita Parris (six goals in six games!), Beth Mead and Izzy Christiansen, and it just shows off the broad range of talent coach Phil Neville has to pick from. But not only do they have great attacking options, but they also have a strong defensive line that keeps goals out – and contributes to them. Steph Houghton, centre back and captain of the team, scored two goals in six games and curled THAT freekick in against the USA in the SheBelieves cup. Lucy Bronze is another defender with two goals in eight games and an eye for the game. To top things off they’ve got solid goalkeepers like Carly Telford, Karen Bardsley and Siobhan Chamberlain to choose from between the sticks. This also leaves out Jordan Nobbs, a fantastic creative midfielder who tore her ACL back in November and who will, unfortunately, miss out on the tournament.
There was a lot of controversy surrounding the appointment of Phil Neville. The famous former Manchester United player had never been a manager of a team, let alone a women’s side, and here he was going to come in and take over after Mark Sampson, the previous manager of the Lionesses, who was sacked back in September 2017 after evidence surfaced of “inappropriate and unacceptable” behaviour from when Sampson was coaching Bristol Academy, as well as allegations of racism against several of the players, which took a long time to sort out, so naturally, people had doubts about another man coming in, and an unqualified man at that. But after a year and a half on the post, Neville has proven the doubters wrong, by putting together a good England side that has performed well and even went and won the SheBelieves cup, a testament to their good form.
Neville likes to put his team up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, but he has also tried out a 4-3-3 format sometimes, and he has been rotating the players a fair bit, especially in the attack.
England has quite a few games coming up before the World Cup, and the good news is that you can follow them all on BBC! They will live stream all England’s games, and tomorrow (Friday the 5th of April) they kick off against Canada at 19:15 (UK time). They play Spain on the 9th of April, Denmark the 25th of May and New Zealand on the 1st of June, before heading to France and their first group stage game against Scotland on the 9th of June. That is quite a few meetings to look forward to!
That’s some insight on the Lionesses ahead of France. In a group with Scotland, Argentina and Japan, it will be very tight and even though they are favourites to get out of the group on top, they are up against pretty tough team. Do you reckon they’ll make it? Fire up the comment section below!