Best England team yet? Lionesses must show it against Norway

first_imgForty-five minutes into England’s Women’s World Cup campaign, there was a fear the Lionesses could peak too early.A dream first-half performance against Scotland in their Group D opener ended with the scoreline reading 2-0 in their favour, with the flicks and tricks coming out much earlier than anticipated.However, the following 45 minutes would quash any of those fears.  Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? England’s performance dropped, Scotland came back into the game, pulled a goal back and threatened to claim a point.Phil Neville’s side are now four games into their campaign, with four wins to their name and a quarter-final clash with Norway next in line.But none of those wins have been particularly convincing.After their 2-1 success over Scotland, a 1-0 win against Argentina did the job and a 2-0 victory over Japan saw them finish the group stage with nine points, the display similar to that in their first game.Stylish, energetic and very comfortable for 60 minutes, before wilting and threatening to cave in the final 30 minutes. It’s a theme that continued in the last-16 victory over Cameroon.“The great thing about where we are, three matches and three victories into the World Cup, is that there is much more still to come,” Lucy Bronze wrote in her column for the Metro before that game.“Just because we’ve not been at our best yet is no reason for concern. I remember watching the USA at the last World Cup and thinking, ‘they’re not really firing’.Emslie Scotland 2019“But they went on to be unstoppable, so you don’t want to exceed your potential too early in a tournament.”England, in a way, are victims of their own success.The exciting displays – in wins over Japan and Brazil, and a 2-2 draw with the USA – that helped them claim the 2019 SheBelieves Cup back in March set the bar high.The emphasis on wanting to play good football puts Neville’s team further under the microscope, but the findings will be that this team have shown in glimpses what they are capable of.“We do just need our game management to be better over the 90 minutes,” Faye White, who won 90 caps for England, said.“I think we’ve shown that we can take chances and make chances, but it is just about being solid defensively when we are challenged more.“There’s been some good performances, certainly first half against Scotland and even Argentina, but we’ve lost our way a little bit when teams have stepped up and started to fight back.”That needs to change for their next outing. Norway are their toughest opponent yet and, with the USA or France waiting on the other side, scraping a win would not be the best practice for such a heavyweight challenge.“In terms of system, physicality and technically, they tick every box,” Neville said.“They have a spirit, togetherness and tactical system that is hard to play against.”England SheBelieves Cup 2019That combination helped them edge out Australia on penalties in the last 16, after beating South Korea and Nigeria in the groups and giving France a run for their money in a 2-1 defeat.But England are more than confident that they can raise their game to the level needed for a World Cup quarter-final.“We’re in a fantastic place,” said goalkeeper Karen Bardsley.“We’ve never had more belief than we do today. We are the most prepared team, the most resilient team, we know our strengths inside and out and have gained and gathered momentum.“This is by far the best team I’ve been a part of in my England career.”Technically speaking, the best England team so far was the one Bardsley helped finish third at the World Cup four years ago – but this team is certainly capable of surpassing that achievement.Capable, however, is the key word.“I’m very excited because we haven’t met our full potential yet and we have a very good chance of doing that [against Norway],” Bardsley added.England may not have to be at their very best to beat Norway, a team that were wasteful against Australia and should have beaten them comfortably with the amount of chances they had in Nice.But they will have to be better than they have been so far – and for the full 90 minutes, too.last_img

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