In the build up to the Lionesses‘ first ever World Cup Semi-Final game, we look at what has made the team such a roaring success in their campaign. Prior to the 2015 World Cup the women had never made it past the last 16 stages, so they have made a name for themselves by now becoming only the third English team (men and women) to reach a World Cup Semi-Final.
Coach Mark Sampson has been a breath of fresh air in the England camp, willing to change things around until he gets it right. This has included playing 22 of his 23 person squad and changing formations from 5-4-1 to 4-4-2. This has been a welcome system for the team, not only has it allowed players to be rested but it has also shown Sampson who has played well, and who has maybe been under par with their performances. It has also shown that as a Manager he has made the right decisions with his formations and team choices, as England have managed to break records and get to their first Semi-Final.
After their opener against France ending in a 1-0 defeat, it seems that the players took a lot of heart from that game and turned it into determination. They went on to win their two remaining group matches, beating Mexico 2-1 and also beating Colombia by the same tally. This continued with a 2-1 win over Norway in the last 16 and a 2-1 win over hosts, Canada, in the Quarter-Final. Their spirit was highlighted in the last 16 game with Norway, where Norway took the lead but England fought back to score two fantastic goals by Steph Houghton and Lucy Bronze. This determination to play as hard as you can for 90 minutes has definitely got England to where they are today.
What has been their downfall?
Where England like to play an attacking style of football, it can sometimes leave them at a disadvantage. The counter attacks and fancy football is good but England can sometimes struggle to keep their possession and make the job harder for themselves to win the ball back and start the counter again.
Also, throughout the World Cup, England have never been short of good attacking play with plenty of shots being the reward of their forward football, however more of the chances need to be converted into goals. The efforts are there but the conversion rate has not been as good as it could be.
Finally, looking at the past four results for the Lionesses’ they have all been 2-1 wins, with two of those being situations where England led 2-0 and conceded late in the second half to deny them a clean sheet. This is something that England need to work on, when taking a lead, making sure they keep the lead by keeping their defence as solid as possible and staying focused until the final whistle. Little lapses of concentration is usually the reason behind England’s late equalisers, if these are cut out of the game England would be likely to be feared more as a side.
How do England approach their Semi-Final with Japan?
Japan are the current World Cup holders for a reason, they keep possession well and make it hard for the opposition to gain the ball. England will be well aware of this and will need to similarly improve their possessive football to keep control of the game.
A great incentive for England is that they have not lost in their previous three matches against Japan, winning one and drawing two. Mark Sampson will look on this as a huge positive when giving his final team talk ahead of the tie.
England have the advantage of their fantastic attacking style, although it will be hard to break through the Japanese defence, this will mean England need to try and take every chance they get. Jodie Taylor showed her clinical nature in the quarter final as she pounced on a Canadian defensive error to score, she will definitely be in contention for a start and might be just what England need up front. A clinical game is definitely needed in order to have a chance against Japan.
On the other hand, England had an excellent defensive game against Canada in their quarter-final, despite letting in one goal they battled hard to deny any other chances getting goal-wards, this will need to be exactly the same in this game. Steph Houghton and Lucy Bronze have made a big impact going forward and have backed it up with their defensive work, now every player on that pitch will need to give it 110% if they want to proceed to the FIFA Women’s World Cup Final.
Although, judging by the reactions of the players after their quarter final win, the passion and pride is present in every one of the England Lionesses’ already:
Their biggest match to date can be seen from 23:10 on BBC One and BBC Radio 5 Live with a 00:00BST kick-off. The winners of this evening’s match will go on to face the USA in the final on Sunday night after they beat Germany 2-0 yesterday in the first Semi-Final.
The FA Women’s Super League also continues following the end of the 2015 World Cup. All remaining fixtures can be found at: http://www.fawsl.com/matches.html#HXrJpJhFxGWHuoVD.97