England have mostly performed as expected in the World Cup so far, winning all three group games even if none came with a hugely dominant scoreline. Cameroon, meanwhile, have surprised people already by beating a more fancied New Zealand side to make it out of a tough group. Could they pull off an upset again?
Tactically, Cameroon play a very fluid and interchanging system. The official FIFA listings have generally had it down as a back three, and it does appear as such at times, but will often find itself becoming a back three as a “centre back” pushes into midfield or a full back rushes on.
There seems to be a greater than usual emphasis on marking individuals in open play over a zonal structure, which will occasionally cause the side problems as opposition players can escape their markers and find themselves free. In attack, things are similarly loose, with the passmaps often turning into something of a blur as players constantly move around during the game. This might be their best chance of scoring here, to play a predominantly counter attack based style of interchanging players that disrupts England’s shape.
Cameroon’s game is primarily about keeping it tight, and at the heart of this is centre back Estelle Johnson. Having spent most of her life in the United States, the Sky Blue FC defender is a recent addition to the Cameroon side, but she’s slotted straight in, and the Twelve rankings put Johnson as her team’s best performer in the defensive side of the game.
At the other end, the star players have been Gabrielle Onguene and Ajara Nchout, with Onguene leading the Twelve rankings overall. Onguene generally starts on the left and may have a tough time against England’s best player in right back Lucy Bronze, so Nchout could be the most likely to offer an impact for Cameroon.
For England, the possession heavy 4-3-3 shape will continue, though expect many names rested against Japan to return. The likes of Fran Kirby and Nikita Parris should get back into the starting eleven, even if there are always questions about what Phil Neville will do.
Parris in particular has had a slightly disappointing World Cup so far, showing moments of quality against Scotland before struggling to make an impact against Argentina and being left out for the Japan game. This could be the moment when she makes her mark on this tournament.
Upfront might be the biggest question. Thus far, the role has alternated between Ellen White and Jodie Taylor. Both have scored when they’ve played, and lead Twelve’s model on a per minute basis.
White’s best moments so far in the tournament have been running in behind the defensive line, being fed through balls. Taylor, on the other hand, has been more of a penalty box poacher, her one goal so far being a tap in from a low cross.
If Neville feels that the side will lack the space in behind against Cameroon, Taylor may be the way to go. If it’s just about picking the best players, one would think White will start. Either way, he has options to change things if the game isn’t going England’s way.
The pattern of play in this game will surely be that the English dominate possession while Cameroon restrict their quality of chances and spring something on the counter. This should suit England well, and the pattern of play against Argentina, in which they created numerous chances against a deep defending team before eventually breaking through, could repeat itself. Cameroon do possess the ability to cause an upset, but England will more likely be okay here.