Many had the Lionesses written off before they had stepped onto the artificial pitches in Moncton, Canada, but how the grass is greener now.
England’s women, unbeaten in three matches having scored six goals from a variety of players including two defenders in Monday’s comeback against unbeaten Norway, prepare to face hosts Canada in Saturday’s last-eight clash.
As coach Mark Sampson said after the game, it was a squad effort which won them the match on Monday night, the Welshman having again using two substitutes early on in the second half which changed the way England played.
What’s the magic ingredient that’s pushed the team beyond their past performances?
The team who played on Monday (including substitutes) had an average age of 28 years with each player averaging 58 caps each.
The experienced Fara Williams, who has 144 appearances, balanced the young upcoming Fran Kirby with 21: the team is delicately balanced with age and youth without lacking in areas.
The Lionesses had an atrocious Euro ‘13 campaign, failing to earn a win after losing to Spain, mustering a draw against Russia then being thrashed by France 3-0 which sent them home.
But the team has changed now and, speaking midweek, Williams said the team has learnt not to listen to everyone else’s opinion and concentrate on themselves, with strong characters such as Manchester City’s Steph Houghton and Williams keeping the team together.
And it’s worked: combined with the old guard and new upcoming talents, the team has been able to adapt and perform well which then brings confidence and rhythm which will keep them going in this tournament.
Canada only won one match in their group stages, following two draws and a win against sides that have not performed particularly well while they scraped through the last 16 against Switzerland, in their first ever tournament this year.
Having not lost a match, Canada’s defence is tight and well organised but what they have at the back they lack upfront, only managing to score three goals in the entire campaign.
They’ve also failed to leave the group stages in their past two World Cups – but finished fourth in the 2003 tournament.
They have the more experienced squad however, with the average caps of the side at 80, and they also have goal machine Christine Sinclair who’s yet to score from open play in this campaign.
The two teams have played each other twice this year – winning one each – which sets up this game to be a really close battle between whichever team is braver and steps forward into the last four.
Can England do the unthinkable again?
Image courtesy of FATV via YouTube, with thanks.