Japan vs England

Japan vs England Preview: A World Top 10 Clash With History Too

When England faced Japan four years ago in their World Cup semifinal in Canada, the Lionesses lost the tie, heartbreakingly, through an own goal in the 92nd minute. The stakes aren’t quite as high this time around – it is ‘only’ the group stage, and both teams have already progressed into the next round – but it is not a complete dead rubber.

Victory against Japan in the SheBelieves Cup in March, despite it being a friendly tournament, and the manner in which they secured it will no doubt have given Phil Neville’s side confidence ahead of their meeting in Nice. Now, after narrowly defeating Scotland and overcoming Argentina’s attempts to frustrate them, England should be well-prepared for their final test after these two difficult fixtures.

Neville pointed out that “Japan struggled to create chances against Argentina but we didn’t”. The South Americans held the former world champions to a goalless draw, in which Asako Takakura’s side looked every inch the team in transition they were thought to be. A much more composed performance against Scotland served as a timely reminder of their class, encapsulated by Mana Iwabuchi’s fine finish, although they could do with some ruthlessness to match the levels of dominance. Read More

England vs Argentina

England vs Argentina Preview: Can The Lionesses Hit Their Stride?

It wasn’t perfect, but England’s performance against Scotland saw them over the line in the end. Phil Neville’s side have never been a afforded a better chance to win a World Cup, with a squad packed with experience and quality likely to threaten any opponent.

They showed as much in the first half in Nice, leading 2-0 by the break thanks to goals from Nikita Parris and Ellen White; but an opportunity missed by Scotland’s Erin Cuthbert just before half time and a disallowed strike by Beth Mead 30 seconds after galvanised Shelley Kerr and her team.

As the Lionesses tired and became sloppy, Scotland grew in confidence, halving the deficit late on and going close to grabbing a draw. England head into Friday’s clash with Argentina expected to win comfortably once again, but they certainly must improve in some areas if they are to dominate the game in the way that they should. Read More

England vs Scotland

England vs Scotland Preview: Facing the Auld Enemy

You want at least one spicy fixture in the first week of any World Cup, and England vs Scotland looks like it will certainly tick that box. England, seen by most as among the set of sides with a genuine chance of winning the trophy, will want to make a statement against the oldest of rivals, but a slip up here and finishing first in the group will be a hard task with a strong Japan side lurking.

Scotland, meanwhile, have a fighting chance of making it out of the group, and getting a result here will go a long way to making their first Women’s World Cup appearance a successful one.

If you haven’t watched England since the last World Cup four years ago, the biggest change is the style of football. Whereas Mark Sampson’s 2015 side were built on defensive resilience, Phil Neville’s outfit likes to play an expansive, entertaining game. The shape is likely to be a 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 system, with an emphasis on pushing the full backs high up the pitch to generate crosses. Read More

Gareth Southgate's England Team

Twelve’s algorithm selects Gareth Southgate’s England team

England had a strange World Cup. They lost three matches yet returned as heroes, but also didn’t lose any game which really mattered inside 90 minutes. It was certainly a successful tournament from a PR perspective, as the England team reconnected with a fan base which had grown increasingly disconnected. The real question is whether or not they can sustain the love-in for a couple of years until the next European Championships.

Gareth Southgate’s first chance to uphold his newly found superstar status comes over the next week, when England take on Spain in UEFA’s gleaming new Nations League competition, then play a friendly against Switzerland. He has selected his squad, so at Twelve we thought it’d be interesting to pick the best team based on the players’ performance this season.

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Belgium 2-0 England: Quality Beats Quantity

England Belgium World CupFor the second time in this World Cup, Belgium beat England in a match which didn’t matter a huge amount to anybody. Unlike in the first meeting, the Three Lions had more shots and more on target than their opponents in St. Petersburg on Saturday, but it was Roberto Martinez’ side who amassed more expected goals both times.

And when it comes to chances, quality is always more valuable than quantity. Still, England did at least muster five shots on target in open play, which was significantly better than they managed to in their first six matches in Russia.

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Croatia’s World Cup dream goes on

Modric’s foul on Dele Alli gifted the Three Lions a free kick in a dangerous position early on, and Trippier stepped up to bend the ball over the wall and into the top corner, leaving Croatian goalkeeper Danijel Subasic rooted to the spot. When that happened, I thought to myself – it is definitely coming home. There is no chance for Croatia to return from this one. After suffering extra time and penalty shootouts against both Russia and Denmark, this was way too much to turn over.

Apparently, there was only one dream at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow in the first half. A dream for England to win their first semi-final in 28 years and qualify for another big stage – the final against France. Trippier’s first ever goal for his national team gave Southgate’s side a start which they could’ve only dreamed of. And they kept the early pressure on as Croatia were slow to get going.

England’s threat at set pieces was as constant as ever, with Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard, as well as Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling making all sorts of problems for Croatia’s defence. Moreover, the Three Lions should have doubled their advantage on the half-hour mark when World Cup top gunman Harry Kane was slipped through on goal, only to be firstly denied by Subasic when one-on-one, and then a combination of Subasic and the post from point-blank range.

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It’s not coming home for England

A berth in the final of the World Cup was at stake and England were 120 minutes away from having a chance to bring football home, but a 2-1 loss to Croatia means they will instead play for third place on Saturday.

England came off a 2-0 win against Sweden while Croatia defeated hosts Russia on penalty kicks. England’s inability to close out the match after scoring early saw Croatia grow in confidence. A lone goal by Kieran Trippier was followed by an equalizer by Ivan Perisic and an eventual winner in extra time by Mario Mandzukic. Emotionally, Gareth Southgate’s team went from the highest of highs to the absolute lowest of lows across the 120 minutes.

Kieran Trippier gave the Three Lions a dream start. Just minutes into the semi-final match, Trippier gave England a 1-0 lead following a fantastic free kick. Gareth Southgate’s men looked sharper and quicker when compared to their counterparts on the day but as the match went on, Croatia grew in confidence and England let the match slip away.

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Croatia vs England Preview: Midfield supremacy vital for Vatreni

It seems almost nothing can stop Croatia on it’s way to the World Cup final. They’ve walked through the group stage in a surprisingly easy manner. Winning against Nigeria was not impressive, but it was enough for the initial self-confidence injection. Afterwards came the match against Argentina where Dalić’s team proved to be a serious candidate for a medal in Russia.

High-quality counter attacking football turned out to be a perfect plan for Croatia in the situation where it is opposed by a strong opponent. Vatreni began to feel very good in the role of an underdog as they showed against Sampaoli’s side.

But then the obvious problems in play while being a favorite started showing up. Dalic’s side started to struggle when in possession which was clear in the next two games.

In the first round of the knockout phase Croatia held off both it’s nerve and Denmark 3-2 in penalty kicks with the veteran shot-stopper Danijel Subasic stepping up at the right time. The Danes completely controlled the situation on the pitch for almost the whole match and similar was repeated against Russia.

There Modric and co. showed that football isn’t all about tactics, but a sport filled with strong emotions where they again came out as winners. It was simply unbelievable to see them pulling out from another penalty shootout intact. But, if they would play like in the last two games – against Denmark and Russia – they don’t stand a chance opposing England.

How can Croatia upset Southgate’s side?

First of all, Zlatko Dalic needs to return to a formation with three in midfield where Marcelo Brozovic will be the one who can unleash Modric’s abilty to drive his team forward, drag the opposition out of shape and generally dictate the match tempo. Dalic’s decision to introduce Internazionale’s deep-lying playmaker against the hosts after an hour proved to be a game-changer. Ultimately, in similar shape Croatia completely outplayed Argentina who, like England, play with three at the back.

Brozovic played a decent game against Argentina where he successfully, in cooperation with Rakitic and the defence, stopped Lionel Messi. He is the third best Croatian as per Twelve’s ‘points per minute’ overall rating at the tournament and will be vital in stuffing the midfield with players in order to stop England’s excellent duo Alli and Lingard in their roaming.


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Sterling and Lingard hold the key for England

It all started as a joke.

Disappointed and disillusioned following their team’s chronic lack of success on the international stage, the England supporters had little faith in Gareth Southgate’s team and the ‘It’s Coming Home’ shout was their way to fight the disappointment that was expected to ensue.

Successive wins over Tunisia and Panama sparked a newfound hope and the catchphrase from the Lightning Seeds hit song “Three Lions” slowly started shaping into a genuine possibility as England stands in front of it’s first World Cup semi-final since 1990.

The Three Lions have struggled to go past the quarter-finals ever since Italy and all the supporters initially wanted to do was to be lighthearted about another probable disappointment in Russia.

Gareth Southgate had different ideas, however. Never truly given managerial recognition and the credit he obviously deserves, the former England international is doing wonders with a young and exciting side.

Waistcoat Revolution

There are a couple of parallels to be drawn between the Velvet Revolution from Czechoslovakia in 1989 and the unobtrusive manner with which Gareth Southgate led his England side back to global prominence.

The waistcoat-wearing tactician reshaped the way England defend and go forward, their off-ball movement and – most importantly – he instilled a winning mentality the Three Lions lacked in the past.

England’s quarter-final success against Sweden might have been all about Jordans – and Harry Maguire’s masculine maturity – but as England stands in front of it’s biggest challenge yet in the tournament, it is to be argued that Raheem Sterling and Jesse Lingard hold the key to the final.

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Sweden 0-2 England: Jordans key to victory

In their first quarter final appearance at a FIFA World Cup since losing to Portugal on penalties in 2006 in Germany, England ensured that the dream of football coming home is alive and well after a 2-0 win against Sweden. A fantastic display once more by Jordan Pickford along with two headed goals by Harry Maguire and Dele Alli meant that the Three Lions are in the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup for the first time since the 1990 edition.

A goalkeeper who is capable of playing with his feet helped Gareth Southgate’s team to build from the back, and Pickford made 20 passes (13 of which came from inside his area). Not only that, against Sweden, England kept their first clean sheet of the entire tournament thanks to his impressive saves. That and coming off the back of a first ever penalty shootout win at a World Cup can only help the team grow in confidence.

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