’s opening group game at the was not the breezy beginning that many expected.
While countries like and Brazil put on a show to kick-start their tournaments, England struggled against Haiti and can perhaps consider themselves fortunate to get the win.
It was d did take all three points. It means the Lionesses have not scored a goal from open play in any of their past four matches.
However, it would be a mistake to write off England’s World Cup campaign on the back of this result. The opening game at the Euros was a 1-0 win against Austria at Old Trafford which certainly had its own moments of discomfort.
In fact, the result against Haiti demonstrated how important it is to have your whole team prepared to step up when needed.
With the frontline misfiring, goalkeeper Mary Earps showed why she was named the best in the world last year, making three excellent saves to keep England in the lead.
Credit should also be given to Haiti for their performance. Nineteen-year-old Melchie Dumornay showed exactly why French champions Lyon rushed to sign her back in January.
They would be fighting quite a few more clubs based on even one performance at this World Cup. Her speed caught the eye but the way she marked Keira Walsh out of the match was even more impressive.
It is easy to expect bigger nations to simply breeze through these kinds of tests and in the past perhaps that was true in the women’s game. Many feared that the expansion of this year’s World Cup to 32 teams would only highlight the gap but if anything it has done the opposite.
Minnows causing upsets
That is because it isn’t just England who have been caught unawares by lower-ranked opponents.
In the opening game, at the 16th attempt after they defeated a Norway side that contained Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg.
Yet they got a taste of their own medicine when they were then beaten by the Philippines, who became the first of this year’s World Cup debutants to win a match.
France were also held to a 0-0 draw with Jamaica, while Sweden were forced to come back from a goal down to beat South Africa 2-1, relying on a 90th-minute header to get three points.
There is no doubt that some of these performances have caught teams by surprise. The United States’ 13-0 win over Thailand at the last World Cup made headlines but average goals per match at the tournament have been in decline since it started in 1991.
Across the world, opportunities are improving for girls and women to play football, and the quality and tactics are following suit.
What is most impressive about the performances of these ‘underdogs’ is how many have done it in the face of adversity.
Nigeria secured a 0-0 draw against Olympic gold medallists Canada having threatened to boycott the fixture in the lead-up to the match over unpaid bonuses.
Jamaica were forced to crowdfund for their trip to Australia after they released a statement expressing their disappointment at a lack of support from their federation.
We can only imagine how good some of these ‘underdogs’ would be if they were given the backing they deserve.
Wiegman to stick or twist?
A win against Denmark tomorrow would almost guarantee England qualification to the round of 16 but the key question will be whether manager Sarina Wiegman keeps with the same starters she used against Haiti.
Wiegman (pictured) is well known for her determination to pick a starting line-up and then stick to it but the opening game has posed some questions.
Lauren James’ 30-minute cameo demonstrated exactly why the Chelsea youngster is thought of so highly. Her on-ball ability brought a sense of calmness to England’s attack but it is possible Wiegman has cast her in one of her super-sub roles.
Rachel Daly might also feel like she deserves a chance to lead the line after Alessia Russo spurned a number of opportunities. But Wiegman’s managerial philosophy is to back the players she has picked and give them the chance to gel as a team, rather than chopping and changing.
Denmark will pose a different threat to Haiti – they will be a lot less physical and more possession-focused. It might be the case that some of those who looked a bit flat against Haiti come into their own. England will certainly hope so.
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