With three wins from three Group D games The Lionesses are now the bookmakers favourite to win the Women’s World Cup, priced at 7/2. We have seen giants Germany crash out of the tournament unexpectedly in the group stages and the United States look underwhelming in the group stages, could this be the year that England win the biggest trophy of them all? For their first knockout match of the campaign they face Nigeria who finished 2nd to hosts Australia in Group B, taking five points from their three games. The game will take place at The Brisbane Stadium at 8:30am GMT on Monday morning.
After a steady start to the campaign with two 1-0 wins against Haiti and Denmark the ladies really turned up the heat against China last time out, destroying the 14th best ranked team in the world 6-1. The shackles finally came off after a disappointing couple of displays and Weigman’s team looked to have found renewed confidence and swagger playing in a new 3-4-1-2 formation. It was good to see England back amongst the goals after a concerning first two games where we were unable to create or convert in our usual manner. The emergence of Lauren James in the side has really lifted our game as has getting Rachel Daly back into the team. The real shift though came with the change of formation which caught out China and England’s ability to mix up and adapt formations could be something that we see throughout the rest of the tournament. In a quote from The Telegraph from Sarina Weigman “I’m very proud of the team. When we discussed we wanted to change like this everyone believed in it straight away and you saw that on the pitch. We want to use the qualities of the squad as optimally as possible. The team showed we are really adaptable. I think we are growing into the tournament. We had a great performance.”
A welcome boost this week has been the sight of Kiera Walsh back training on her own, although I expect Katie Zelem to be utilised on Monday, giving Walsh more much needed recovery time. I expect England to line-up the same as they did against China and hope they can maintain the momentum gained.
Nigeria should prove to be England’s toughest test yet and they certainly drew attention in their 3-2 win against hosts Australia in Group B and holding Olympic champions Canada to a draw. The Super Falcons are also undefeated in the tournament and in Asisat Oshoala they have one of the brightest attacking talents in the world. Should Nigeria progress they will equal their strongest ever finish in a World Cup. Nigeria will be looking to create their own history this tournament having only reached the knockout stages of the World Cup on three occasions. This looks set to be an enthralling encounter and England will need to be at their best to stifle Nigeria, I do however expect us to do just that. England have made quick starts to all three of their games so far taking the lead in the fourth, sixth and 26th minute in their opening three games. Don’t be surprised to see a first half goal for The Lionesses and Weigman’s team to see out a victory.
- England are ranked fourth in the FIFA world rankings.
- Nigeria are ranked 40th in the FIFA world rankings.
- The sides have only faced each on three occasions with Nigeria winning twice and England winning once. The last time the sides met was back in 2004 where Nigeria ran out 3-0 winners.
- England have never lost a competitive match under Sarina Weigman.
It felt like England finally arrived against China and I expect us to continue the winning momentum, but I do think it will be tight in parts. I am backing England to win 3-1 which is paying 11/1 with Paddy Power.
Lauren James has been the star player of the tournament for me with three goals from two starts. I have a feeling she might find herself on the scoresheet once more so i am backing her to score anytime at 17/10 with Paddy Power.