Group D, tipped by many to be the Group of Death, is now the fourth group to kick off at the Women’s World Cup. Although the score-line looks far from comfortable, in the end England had a comfortable evening as they floated by Scotland with ease and their stars really shone bright. Here is our Tactical Analysis for England’s opening group stage match against Scotland.
Phil Neville set his team up in his favoured 4-2-3-1 with Jill Scott sometimes joining the attack and Keira Walsh sitting deeper, at times creating a 4-1-4-1. The formation allowed Fran Kirby to get on the ball further forward, but also pushed Scotland to their limits in wide areas with Bronze and Greenwood continuously providing overlapping runs around Parris and Mead.
Scotland also matched England in a 4-2-3-1 shape, although there formation only led to the isolation of Erin Cuthbert and Kim Little having less time on the ball. Scotland also looked to play in wide areas, with Claire Emslie having the biggest impact.
England (4-2-3-1): Bardsley (GK), Bronze (RB), Houghton (CB), Bright (CB), Greenwood (LB), Walsh (DM), Scott (DM), Parris (RW), Kirby (AM), Mead (LW), White (CF)
Scotland (4-2-3-1): Alexander (GK), Howard (RB), Corsie (CB), Beattie (CB), Docherty (LB), Weir (DM), Murray (DM), Emslie (RW), Little (AM), Evans (LW), Cuthbert (CF)
ENGLAND ON TOP
England came out of the gates flying with a high-paced, high-possession and high-pressing style of football. In the opening twenty minutes, they primarily attacked down the right. Lucy Bronze often made overlapping runs around Nikita Parris and both were heavily involved in England’s opening attacks. In fact England’s dubious penalty kick to start the scoring was awarded from a Fran Kirby cross from the right side. The ball hit Rachel Corsie on the arm very unintentionally and this did not appear to change the flight of the ball much at all. However, England were awarded the spot kick and Nikita Parris stepped up to smash the ball into the top corner. Cuthbert and Docherty were seen leading the charge to get Scotland pumped up but England remained on top and both aforementioned players never really got into the game. Throughout the first half England completely dominated the ball, and on top of that were looking to play forward at every opportunity. This eagerness to attack resulted in several chances being created for the Lioness, particularly for Ellen White who had a headed goal disallowed from offside. Apart from the odd Steph Houghton flier, England rarely relied on long-passes and instead played short intricate passes between their midfield triangle or with the two wide players on either side linking up. Fran Kirby meanwhile often tried to run with the ball and was often successful in springing past Scotland’s midfield, but could never get past their defense. The one occasion where the Chelsea midfielder really got the better of Scotland’s defense was more of a deflection and bounced off her knee right into the path of Ellen White, who dispatched the ball into the back of the net from close range. At this point all of England’s attacks were being provided from their front four, with Scott and Walsh sitting much deeper and Bronze and Greenwood making the occasional forward run. When the half-time whistle blew, Scotland were two-nil down and had very little going for them in terms of a route back into the match.
CLAIRE EMSLIE LEADS THE CHARGEEmbed from Getty Images
However, when the second half began Scotland were up to the task. That is after the very first opening few minutes when they completely fell asleep! Fortunately for them Ellen White strayed offside before finding the feet of Beth Mead and the Arsenal attacker’s goal was ruled out. After that, the Scots grew into the game and had much more of the possession than they did in the first half, with it being closer to a 50-50 split. That being said, much of their possession looked purposeless and Shelley Kerr’s side only looked dangerous when they brought new Orlando Pride signing Claire Emslie into the match. Erin Cuthbert looked very isolated and couldn’t make the mark on the game that she would have liked, while Kim Little had very little support and was easily tamed by Keira Walsh and Jill Scott in midfield. England couldn’t get a stranglehold on the game either and the introductions of Karen Carney and Georgia Stanway didn’t change their fortune. That meant very little though given that the Scots were very slow in their build-up play, passing around from centre-back to centre-back far too many times. When they did look to play forward, they were looking for Emslie at every opportunity.Embed from Getty Images
Ultimately, England never really got going again for the rest of the match, but had a few chances denied by Lee Alexander. As Scotland continued to have more of the ball, Claire Emslie‘s influence continued to grow. The former Man City right-winger practically had a player of the game performance despite her team losing, and it was her goal in the 79th minute that gave Scotland hope after Lisa Evans found her at the top of the box. Although Emslie’s influence on the game was there for all to see, Manchester United captain Alex Greenwood was simultaneously up to the task of dealing with Emslie and Orlando Pride’s latest signing could only help herself to one clear chance and one goal. In the end, England took the victory to top Group D, what many are tipping to be the Group of Death. Ultimately everywhere on the field England had outclassed Scotland and even Emslie who was Scotland’s best player had a tough evening up against Greenwood. Erin Cuthbert meanwhile will be disappointed with her performance and will be hoping to play in a deeper role next time in order to have greater influence over the game. England look set to have a successful tournament, but just how far they can go remains to be seen.
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