After what can only be described as an underwhelming opening World Cup game against Haiti The Lionesses will need to up their game against Denmark on Friday morning.
The Danes themselves struggled in their opener, and it took them 89 minutes to finally break open a resilient China defence, stealing a 1-0 win in the dying embers of the match.
England and Denmark were the two favourites to progress from Group D, with The Lionesses expected to top the group, but make no mistake, if England perform as they did against Haiti, we could quite easily come out second best here. A win for either team would see them progress to the knockout stages of the tournament.
There was plenty of food for thought for Sarina Weigman, who has seen her side struggle in the buildup to this tournament, losing against hosts Australia and drawing against Portugal in the two friendlies leading up to this event. Something just isn’t gelling with The Lionesses at this moment in time, and I expect we may see some tinkering ahead of this fixture to try and get the right solution.
It is clear that we are missing the qualities of Leah Williamson, Beth Mead and Fran Kirby, and it is worrying that we haven’t been able to fill the void left by these players. Alessia Russo was given the nod ahead of WSL player of the season and golden boot winner Rachel Daly, and a few people are calling for Daly to make it back into the starting XI. Russo, for me, performed OK with limited service - there was little coming into her from the midfield or out wide.
There were a lot of lacklustre showings, Lauren Hemp struggled to get into the game, Millie Bright looked a little bit rusty coming back from injury, and Ella Toone was not at the races, in my opinion. Something needs to be done to rectify our lack of creativity, so I am intrigued to see what changes are made. With England having not scored a goal in open play since the Finalissima (three games ago), where they beat Brazil on penalties, this has now passed the point of a couple of uninspired performances, but into the territory of players and system not being cohesive.
One positive from the first game is that the Lionesses came through the match with a clean bill of health, and we have no injury concerns going into this fixture. I would like to see us get Rachel Daly involved in the game from the start somehow, whether it means we adapt the system to fit her in and Russo whilst sacrificing in the midfield area or a direct replacement for Russo in this match.
Daly is a proven goalscorer, and I feel it is a shame to have her sat on the bench after the season she has had and also knowing how much you get out of her in an England jersey. Lauren James looked lively when she came on, and I think there is a strong argument to say that she has done enough to justify a starting place for this fixture.
I do think that this game could be a bit more suited to England’s style, and I do think we will see performance levels raised against a seemingly stronger opponent. Weigman will be wary of Pernille Harder and, I imagine, will have a plan to reduce her impact on the game.
Denmark have won four of their last five games, albeit by small margins, with three 1-0 victories. If England can keep it tight at the back, which I expect they can, I can see us taking another win and securing our place in the knockout stages of the tournament.
- England have lost just one of 33 games under manager Sarina Weigman
- The Danes have failed to progress from the group stage in the last two World Cups
- Denmark have won five of their last six games, keeping clean sheets in four of those matches
- England haven’t scored a goal in open play in their last three matches in all competitions
If Rachel Daly starts, I am backing her to score at 6/4 with Paddy Power. Daly has just picked up the golden boot in the WSL with 22 goals in 22 games, so has been in deadly form domestically. I hope she is given the chance to display that clinical edge on the international stage from the first whistle.
For a correct score prediction, I will be backing England to win 2-0 at 5/1 best odds with Betfair.
For a Bet Builder, I like the look of this at odds of 11/1 with Paddy Power:
- England to win
- Georgia Stanway to have a shot on target
- Over 9.5 corners
- Over 2.5 cards