England v USA – Women’s World Cup Semi-Final Preview
July 2, 2019
England have already made it to their second successive Women’s World Cup semi-final, but tonight they take on defending champions USA for a place in the final.
Last week, we predicted Norway would provide a tough test for England but, in all honesty, the ‘gresshoppene’ were no more than a minor irritant for the lionesses, with the threat of pushing the game to penalties never materialising.
England were the favourites going into the match, but most expected a much closer game.
In the end, Phil Neville’s England women powered through to the semis with three goals, including a cracking match-winner from Lucy Bronze on 57 minutes, and another clean sheet.
Captain Steph Houghton battled through an ankle injury to be fit to start, whilst her central defensive partner Millie Bright shook off a virus to join her, although Bright did look out of sorts in the later exchanges.
Jill Scott opened the scoring after just three minutes, and Ellen White made it two shortly before half time.
Norway had chances to get back into the game, and Nikita Parris missed a penalty late on, but they never really asserted their authority in the game and failed to punish England for some sloppy play.
On Friday night, the United States sent hosts France out of the competition with a 2-1 win, cementing their status as favourites for outright winners.
So, let’s take a look at how England and USA measure up, head-to-head in the Women’s World Cup betting odds.
England – 19/5 with Unibet
England will need to cut out the defensive errors and sloppy play present in their 3-0 win over Norway if they are to make it to the final.
Key to that is likely to be Captain Steph Houghton, who will face USA striker Alex Morgan. Morgan is also captain, as well as being joint top-scorer in the competition so far (along with teammate Megan Rapinoe, and England’s Ellen white). This will be a real battle of wills. USA have the best strike-rate in the tournament, but England have the best defensive record.
So far, we’ve only conceded one goal, but we’ve not faced opposition possessing the quality of USA.
Speaking of battle of wills, Ellen White will be raring to test her mettle against USA keeper Alyssa Naeher. Besides the match, the Golden Boot could well be won in this encounter…
Right-back Lucy Bronze scored a more-than-worthy winner to take England through to the semi-final and has been called “the best player in the world” by her manager Phil Neville. She’ll also be playing ‘at home’ at Lyon, where she plays her club football, however, she’ll certainly be tested by USA superstar Megan Rapinoe.
Last but by no means least, midfielder Jill Scott is England’s most capped World Cup player – in either the women’s or the men’s. She isn’t a goal machine – having only one strike to her name this competition, but she is one of the engines which powers England on.
Have the Lionesses got enough fire in their bellies to overcome the defending champions?
USA are favourites in the World Cup betting odds, but England aren’t too far behind.
USA – 5/6 with Black Type
Phil Neville has always maintained that his team want to play against the best and beat them, rather than be handed an easy route to glory. Well, they’ve got their wish.
USA have been amongst the favourites from the get-go, with France thought to be their strongest opposition in winning a historic fourth Women’s World Cup.
Of the seven official FIFA Women’s World Cups that have taken place, USA have won three of them, and been the runners up once (2011). In fact, their lowest position finish has been third (in 1995, 2003, and 2007 respectively).
Not only that, they made it through the group stage without conceding a single goal and scoring an incredible 18!
They are an intimidating prospect to be sure. But they aren’t invincible.
It’s true they beat Spain and France in the round of sixteen and quarter-finals respectively, but both were by narrow margins (2-1 to be exact) and needed a Megan Rapinoe penalty to take the lead against Spain.
Truth be told, USA were generally quite underwhelming against Spain, but the fact that they still won wasn’t all down to Spain’s inability to score a second. They knew what was needed, and they got the job done.
Left-winger Megan Rapinoe, in particular, is having a storming tournament, and it was she who saw them over the line once again. Both USA’s goals were penalties, coming in the 7th, and 76th minutes.
Rapinoe has not only caught the eye due to her pink hair and her plain speaking (she made it clear she would not go to the White House if USA win the World Cup once again) but because of her skill and power on the pitch.
Together with teammate Alex Morgan, Rapinoe has scored five goals so far in the competition and is therefore in the running for the Golden Boot. Whilst Morgan scored all five of hers in the 13-0 annihilation of Thailand, Rapinoe has scored in three of the games, and has played an extra 39 minutes. Both have three assists to their name.
As discussed, the only other player currently on five goals is England’s Ellen White.
It’s not just firepower that USA boast, however. In a tournament where goalkeepers are under the microscope due to their diminutive stature in comparison to their male counterparts – female goalkeepers are around 5’8 in the Women’s Super League, compared to male keepers who are on average between 6’1 and 6’3 in the English Premier League, both use goals which are 8 feet high and 24 feet wide – the USA have only conceded two goals so far.
USA keeper Alyssa Naeher recorded three clean sheets in the group stage, then pulled off some super saves to secure 2-1 wins against Spain and France. It may take something special from England to get past Naeher – can Ellen White deliver?
Another key battle will be fought in midfield, between Lioness Jill Scott, and USA’s Samantha Mewis.
It is Mewis’ first World Cup, but she’s made quite an impression, with two goals and three assists so far. At 6 foot, she’s also the tallest player for Team USA and is a definite threat when it comes to set pieces.
Can England neutralise USA and go on to take the tournament? It would be some achievement to beat them in the semi-finals, and you’d have to think that if you knockout America’s finest, you’re taking home the trophy…
Netherlands v Sweden
Should England make it past USA, they’ll meet either the Netherlands or Sweden in the final.
Tomorrow’s game features two teams which are arguably already punching above their weight to make it to the semi-finals.
Both were outsiders in the Women’s World Cup betting odds before a ball was kicked, yet both dispatched some tricky opposition to reach the semi-final.
Canada, Japan, and Italy all fell by the wayside to see the Netherlands through, whilst Sweden also beat Canada, not to mention dispatching one of the favourites, Germany, with a 2-1 win in the quarter-finals.
The Netherlands are expected to win, but very few would have predicted Sweden would beat Germany, so this could be a tasty tie.
The general consensus is the winner of the tournament will be the winner of tonight’s match, but you should never discount a team with the determination Sweden have shown.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. Tonight, it’s all about England v USA and, honestly, we can’t wait!
Find all your 2019 Women’s World Cup betting odds here
A Boro fan from birth, Elle is a qualified sports journalist and the former editor of the now-defunct sports site ComeOnBoro.com and Sporting Preview. Her work and strong opinions have been published in The News of the World, The Observer and BBC Tees Radio. After work in PR, Elle returned to her roots as a copywriter as a Content and SEO Editor at ActiveWin Media.