England kick started their FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 campaign with an apprehensive 2-1 victory over debutants Scotland in difficult weather conditions.
Neville’s side weathered a late Scotland storm in Nice as they continue to set their sights on winning the FIFA Women’s World Cup for the first time.
Nikita Parris was the bright spark for England, providing a constant thorn in Scotland’s left-hand side, living up to her billing as being one the best players that will grace this year’s tournament.
Her cool, calm and collected penalty showed a player who is performing to her best level. This met with a recent move to European champions Lyon is indicative of her impressive form.
Ellen White provided the Lionesses with a focal point in attack which they utilised to full effect, scoring the second goal as England doubled their lead. A goal which came at the perfect time for England given their slack second half performance.
Scotland had threatened a late comeback to cause an upset when Claire Emslie fired in. For manager Shelley Kerr, a spirited performance in the second half from her side will give her hope of achieving group qualification at Scotland’s first-ever FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The first chance of the game brought the first goal for England. Fran Kirby whipped in a cross that Nicola Docherty initially blocked, play continued, but referee Jana Adamkova was told to review the incident with VAR. The Czech official made a quick decision, much to the dismay of the Scottish contingency, and pointed to the spot. Parris stepped up and blasted the ball beyond keeper Lee Alexander.
With the nation attending their first FIFA Women’s World Cup, Scotland were backed by a marauding contingency of supporters. Even when a goal behind, a large section of fans belted out “Come on Scotland!” to boost the spirits of their side. They were not short of voice during the national anthem, “Flower of Scotland”, either.
Lucy Bronze, often touted as one of the world’s best players, showed off her outstanding ability as she skipped past Docherty. The Lyon full-back delivered an inch-perfect ball onto the feet of Ellen White, but her effort was superbly saved by Alexander.
England were showing glimpses of potential FIFA Women’s World Cup winning football. Despite an impressive season at club level with Chelsea, Erin Cuthbert struggled to carve out any opportunities in the opening half an hour for the Scots. A commanding defensive display from Steph Houghton, a player described by Phil Neville as having ‘the best season of her life’, meant that forward Cuthbert was left was scraps to try and feed off.
The Lionesses again showed class and elegance, traits that were not always visible in the build-up to the competition, as they doubled their advantage. Dogged determination from Fran Kirby, combined with a touch of luck, saw the ball land at the feet of new Manchester City striker White. The 30-year-old has a knack for scoring goals at tournaments, notably the SheBelieves Cup, and she did not fail to deliver. She gained her composure and guided a delightful shot beyond Alexander, meeting her team-mates with her trademark celebration. Imitated from her idol Anthony Modeste, White celebrates every goal by putting her hands to her eyes in the shape of goggles. The forward sees her style of play as one that matches that of the Koln striker and recently flew out to Germany to meet Modeste. White was denied the celebration in the opening stages of the game because of an offside decision, but nobody was denying her second bite at the cherry.
Muggy conditions led to a heavier pitch which could have been the catalyst behind some slower build-up play from England. Neville’s side controlled the majority of possession, playing through the final third as they looked to take a 3-0 advantage. An ability to adapt to the temperatures of France, could have major part to play in the Lionesses search for FIFA Women’s World Cup glory.
England’s impressive defensive performance was put under scrutiny in the latter stages of the game when Scotland scored their first-ever FIFA Women’s World Cup goal. Cuthbert galloped past the England backline and fed the ball to Claire Emslie. The Orlando Pride attacker blasted her effort into the roof of Karen Bardsley’s net. The goal will be one to add to Emslie’s list of personal achievements and she will certainly put her name into the Scotland record books.
A defensive change midway through the second half appeared to have a desperate impact on the Lionesses’ backline. Millie Bright suffered an arm injury and was replaced by Abbie McManus. Neville has tried and tested several defensive partnerships throughout his reign, but this one seemed to add uncertainty.
A nervy ending to the game was there for all to see, something that England must improve if they are to go deep into the competition. All-in-all, The Lionesses begin their campaign with a victory over rivals Scotland but there may be some cause for concern as the FIFA Women’s World Cup progresses. Next up, England face what should be an easier opponent in Argentina, but improvements will have to be made to maintain their performance for the whole game.
England (4-2-3-1): 1. Bardsley; 2. Bronze, 5. Houghton ©, 6. Bright (McManus 54’), 3.
Greenwood; 4. Walsh, 8. Scott; 7. Parris, 10. Kirby (Stanway 82’), 22. Mead (Carney 71’); 18.
Subs: 9. Taylor, 13. Telford, 14. Williamson, 15. McManus, 16. Moore, 17. Daly, 19. Stanway,
20. Carney, 21. Earps, 23. Staniforth
Scotland (4-5-1): 1. Alexander; 15. Howard (Arthur 75’), 4. Corsie ©, 5. Beattie, 3. Docherty
(Smith 54’); 11. Evans, 16. Murray (Arnot 87’), 8. Little, 9. Weir, 18. Emslie; 22. Cuthbert
Subs: 12. Lynn, 21. Fife, 2. Smith, 6. Love, 7. Lauder, 10. Crichton, 13. Ross, 14. Arthur, 17. J.
Murray, 19. Clelland, 20. Brown, 23. Arnot.
By Sam Ward (@Sam_Ward00) – University of Derby Football Journalism student