England’s Women’s World Cup opener – five things we learned

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For fans of the Lionesses, all eyes have been on this first World Cup game against Scotland ever since the draw was made. Alasdair Hooper looks at the main talking points from England’s World Cup opener.

After a narrow 2-1 win it’s time for everyone to take a deep breath – in terms of result it was job done but there is still a lot of improvement needed.

Despite the nervy nature of the game this is just the second time England have won their opening fixture at a World Cup ever, and the first time since 1995.

There is plenty to be proud of but – especially judging by Neville’s post-match reaction – the team have to deliver a lot more.

1) Ellen White cements her place as England’s No 9

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Despite wearing the number 18 on her shirt, Manchester City’s new signing Ellen White essentially cemented her place as England’s first-choice No 9 in this game.

The striker scored the Lionesses second goal with a lovely curled finish past the impressive Lee Alexander but it was the 30-year-old’s work rate that really stood out.

If England are to be successful in this tournament the hold-up play and willingness to chase down opposition defenders means White will be vital.

Her goal also means she has scored in each of her last three games against Scotland.

All in all, a great game for the forward and with so many other talented attackers waiting in the wings she knows that she can’t afford to rest on her laurels.

2) The wide areas will be key for England

One of the other eye-catching performers in this game was Nikita Parris whose rise to world-beater continues.

The winger grabbed the opening goal with a fine finish from the penalty spot but her pace out wide, in tandem with Beth Mead on the other side, was crucial in opening up the Scottish defence.

The fact that Shelley Kerr opted to take off both starting Scottish full-backs shows just how much the wingers played a part here.

While the England performance, and the threat from put wide, diminished in the second half the onus is on whoever is playing out wide for the Lionesses to stretch the opposition back line.

We know Mead and Parris, or their understudies, are capable – we just need to see it consistently.

3) England’s worrying lack of consistency

After an impressive first-half outing for England, the real worry here was the drop off in the second half that helped allow Scotland back into the game.

Neville, to his credit, wasn’t happy with the second-half performance and should the team take their foot of the gas like this it will leave them vulnerable.

Possession play is a huge component to England’s tactics but, quite simply, their passing and intensity wasn’t good enough throughout the second half.


LISTEN: Women’s World Cup 2019 – Parris arrives in France


Scotland are a good team and they subsequently punished the Lionesses for their drop off in energy.

But whether it is physical or mental fatigue, England need to shake it off fast.

If they deliver a performance akin to that second-half showing against one of the tournament’s most talented teams then it will all end in tears.

4) Phil Neville’s tactics show the shackles are off

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Stepping away from the performance on the pitch for the moment, Neville made it clear with his tactical selections that the shackles are well and truly off.

Many worried whether playing a 4-2-3-1 would leave the likes of Keira Walsh and Jill Scott exposed but the former Manchester United man banked on his attack to do the talking – for a large part of the first half they did that.

But even when the game was finely poised at 2-1 there was no sign of the England manager setting up shop, he could easily have thrown on an extra holding midfielder when he took off Fran Kirby but instead went for Georgia Stanway.

Much of the discussion leading up to the tournament was centred around what Neville had in mind for his team selection.

He’s given everyone a signal that attacking will be the way forward.

5) Keira Walsh is England’s unsung maestro

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Perhaps it is unfair to label Keira Walsh as ‘unsung’ but by and large her work goes largely unnoticed compared to the likes of Parris and White.

But, at just 22, the Manchester City midfield maestro reminded us all what she brings to this team.

Her technical ability on the ball is truly impressive and her efforts in the centre of the park, which largely go unseen, help get England flowing with their passing moves.

Despite her age she showed everyone yet again that she belongs at this level and she’s proved to be more important to this team than many observers believed.

England aren’t often praised for their technical ability but in Walsh they have one of the game’s best, and she’s only going to get better.

Follow Alasdair on Twitter @adjhooper1992

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