Women’s World Cup: England’s Lionesses on the hunt for a final

Finishing second in the group and with two successive wins from three, the Lionesses are on their way to the last 16 where they will face Norway.

This however, is not surprising. After watching many dreadful England men’s matches, it’s easy to write off the ladies representing their country.

But, from the group games, it’s hard to point out major weaknesses in the side.

Manchester City star Steph Houghton (main picture) praised the tactics of the manager Mark Sampson on Wednesday after he used all 20 outfield players in England’s group matches switching formations in each game.

This shows the diversity, range and mentality the Lionesses have at this World Cup.

Having lost their opening game to a long range strike from France’s Eugenie Le Sommer following Laura Bassett’s unwanted black eye from an unpunished elbow to the face, the ladies had to change things up.

They did, starting Reading’s ‘mini Messi’ Fran Kirby and Toni Duggan alongside Eniola Aluko, which caused havoc in the Mexican defence.

Multiple attempts on goal saw Aluko hit the bar, forcing Mexican keeper Santiago to make some fine saves which meant a goal was coming.

Fran Kirby pounced on a loose ball and earned her nickname as she weaved in and out of three defenders and slotted the ball home.

England doubled their lead 12 minutes later after a beautiful cross from Duggan saw substitute Karen Carney head the ball into the Mexican net.

Although the Lionesses conceded a late goal, their hard work and strong mentality was enough to lift them into a qualifying position.

Colombia – after beating third-ranked France 2-0 in the previous match, were looking to give England similar treatment.

But Sampson’s tactical mind was used again and he started goal scorer Carney with Duggan and Kirby up front, adding Nobbs and the experienced Stoney in midfield and defence England had set themselves up for an exciting match.

From kick off, the Lionesses made sure their intent was made, with a well-worked set piece which saw Stoney head the ball over from the six-yard box.

Winning a free kick 30 yards out, Houghton struck a low dipping shot towards the bottom left corner of the goal, Colombian keeper Sandra Sepulveda managed to parry the shot away, only to find Carney poke the ball into the net after showing initiative and hunger to follow up after the ball.

After another training ground free kick, Toni Duggan forced Carolina Arias to concede a penalty after her shot hit the Colombian’s arm.

England’s record cap winner Fara Williams made it 2-0 after calmly slotting the ball past Sepulveda.

Conceding another late goal after seeing Colombia come back into the game second half didn’t dampen the spirits which the Lionesses will take to Norway on Monday 22 June. (22:00 GMT)

So what are England’s chances for beating Norway?

  • England last failed to reach the quarter finals in 2003, Norway didn’t leave the group stages last time but in 2007 finished fourth.
  • Norway have scored twice as many goals as England have and have only conceded one less, but did manage to concede to the second worst team in the tournament.
  • Norway’s best finish was in 1995 when they were crowned champions – the same year England reached the semi-finals of the European Championship.
  • England are ranked sixth in the world – Norway 11th

England will be looking to match their best ever finish if they beat Norway, with all the tactical planning, a balance of players and a bit of luck, we may just do so – COME ON ENGLAND!

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