England vs Sweden Preview

England vs Sweden Preview: The Bronze Medal Is Up For Grabs

There may not be a world title to fight for, but with England vs Sweden, the third and fourth place playoff, there’s a lot of pride and a sought-after bronze medal at stake.

Although the honour of calling themselves a World Cup finalist or world champion may have eluded England and Sweden this time, their campaigns, which have proven to be better than 20 other teams in the tournament, are still something to be proud of.

The English always knew the odds were slightly against them when they were drawn against defending champions the United States, but it didn’t stop them from believing in their ability to cause an upset and book their place in their first final.

Unfortunately for them, the dream wouldn’t be realised this year as the Americans showed why they’re the best team in the world and have lifted the trophy three times since 1991. Despite a strong display, that saw them finishing with a better possession percentage, it ended 2-1 in favour of the North Americans in what was a rollercoaster encounter. Read More

England vs USA Preview

England vs USA Preview: Lionesses To Halt Lightning American Start?

The evidence of England’s incremental growth under Phil Neville was on full display during their win against Norway in the quarterfinal. The attack shone, producing a display of clinical finishing, while the defence remained solid, and the Lionesses showed maturity and played with freedom and elegance. It was a statement; for the first time this summer, they truly lived up to their billing of title contenders.

For the second World Cup in a row, England will face the defending champions in the semifinal. By virtue of being the current holders, the USA would be considered favourites for this tie. They have not lost a match at the World Cup since 2011, and they rarely looked like losing in Paris.

Scoring an early goal always has a significant impact. Jill Scott’s strike against Norway set the tone for England’s performance, which was arguably their best one at this tournament so far. The Lionesses will undoubtedly want to get the first goal again on Tuesday, while preventing the USA from doing the same.

The only problem is that their semifinal opponents have mastered this art: not only have the USA scored first in all their games so far, they have also scored them quickly. The opening strikes have come in the 12th, 11th, third, seventh and fifth minutes. Read More

Norway vs England Preview

Norway vs England Preview: Lionesses should win open game

Amid all of the controversy in the aftermath of the Cameroon clash, it should be remembered how impressive England were at times in that victory. Phil Neville’s Lionesses have reached the quarter finals of their fourth-straight World Cup after winning 3-0, and though their opponents quite clearly lost their heads, England deserve credit as they prepare to face Norway.

They started with real purpose, doing exactly what they have been for much of the tournament so far by overloading the flanks and creating space in the middle of midfield. Once again, that allowed Fran Kirby and Jill Scott the space to supply Ellen White up front, though it was a surprisingly quiet game for Nikita Parris and Toni Duggan, who started the day out wide.

But Neville will be aware of the consistent issue facing his side; their inability to keep intensity up as games go on. On this occasion, their early goal, a free-kick inside the box scored by captain Steph Houghton, probably made them too comfortable, and they will get caught out by better teams if they do not improve quickly.

Will Norway be that team? Only time will tell, but even though they don’t have the individual quality of England, France or the USA, their main strengths lie in an area of the pitch that will really open England up to danger. Read More

England vs Cameroon Preview

England vs Cameroon Preview: Could A Shock Be On The Cards?

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. Read More

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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