The England women’s football team have made history by winning all three of their group stage games at a World Cup for the first time.
While this is an achievement that should be celebrated, it should not distract anyone from the reality, which is that the Lionesses need to perform significantly better in the later stages of the tournament if they are going to win it.
England’s game of two halvesEmbed from Getty Images
England made an ideal start to the World Cup when they controlled the first half of their game against Scotland and went in at the break 2-0 up. Nikita Parris and Lucy Bronze were particularly influential, while Ellen White caused plenty of problems for the Scottish defence and took her goal well.
However, they became complacent in the second half and allowed their opponents back into the game. If they had been facing a stronger side, this could have had far more severe consequences than a reduction of the victory margin to 2-1.
The thrashing that never wasEmbed from Getty Images
England completely dominated their second match. They enjoyed 76 per cent of possession, had 17 shots and put Argentina under constant pressure.
All of that sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? Then you look at the 1-0 scoreline and the problem is obvious: the Lionesses were wasteful in front of goal.
Once again, this is something they cannot afford to repeat if (as expected) they face some of the best teams in the world later in the tournament. In those encounters, they may only get one or two chances, and they simply must take them to achieve victory.
Taking the good with the badEmbed from Getty Images
There were some very good things to take away from England’s final group game, but also some troubling things they need to work on.
The positives: Karen Bardsley’s keeping, Steph Houghton’s brilliant last-ditch tackle, the performances of Georgia Stanway and Rachel Daly, and Ellen White’s superbly-taken goals.
The negatives: lack on control in midfield, sloppy passing in the second-half, lack of understanding between some of the players due to the eight changes made my Phil Neville.
Those positives are great things for England to build on, but Neville and his players must find a way of putting together a complete performance – something they are yet to do at this World Cup.
The looming threatsEmbed from Getty Images
By virtue of winning their group, England are guaranteed a relatively easy draw in the last 16, but after that things will get much more difficult.
If they get to the last eight, they will face either Norway or Australia, and both of them have the potential to be difficult opponents for the Lionesses. The Matildas will be the favourites to beat Norway after their impressive win over Brazil, and England should be very wary of the challenges they will present.
If the Lionesses reach the semi-final stage, they are likely to face their toughest test of all against either defending champions USA or France, who are many pundits tip for the title. Both teams have performed well so far in the World Cup and England will almost certainly have to be at their very best to beat either of them.