Tuesday 9th June – 18:00 BST – Moncton Stadium
England kick-off their 2015 Women’s World Cup campaign against France tomorrow evening, in was is arguably their toughest match in Group F. Whoever wins the clash at the Moncton Stadium, the tournament’s smallest venue, is likely to finish top of the group, but getting second place may just be a blessing in disguise, looking at the route to the final. Both teams qualified for the tournament with ease, as England, ranked 6th in the world, conceded just one goal in 10 games, whilst France impressively won all 10 matches, scoring 54 goals along the way and conceding three. William Hill have the French as third favourites to win the whole tournament, so there’s no doubting the quality in their squad, which England must be fearful of, especially as the Lionesses have never beaten them in 10 attempts (L6 D4). Can they break the hoodoo? Watch the action unfold from 5:30pm on Tuesday on BBC Two, with kick-off half an hour later.
England Team News
- Manager Mark Sampson is confident he will be able to pick from his full squad, despite England having several players recovering from injury and illness, including captain Steph Houghton.
- Striker Jodie Taylor has had a recent knee operation, while two unnamed players have suffered from food poisoning.
- Sampson has acted on player feedback by telling them his team two days before the match against France. Previously, he has named his starting line-up closer to games.
The Key Battle: Gaetane Thiney vs Casey Stoney
Spearheading France’s attacking 4-3-3 formation is Gaetane Thiney, who plays for FCF Juvisy – one of the most successful teams in women’s French football.
For the national team, the 29 year old is one of three players in the current squad who has over 40 goals (she has 55 in 122 caps), a feat which no one in the England camp can boast. In qualifying, Thiney racked up 13 goals, a total unsurpassed by any other European player.
England’s Casey Stoney has come up against some world-class players in her 15 years with the national team, so her experience will be vital if we are to keep Thiney at bay.
Stoney has 118 caps for the Lionesses, and this will be her third World Cup, and most probably her last, whilst she is one of 11 players who remain from the squad which reached the final of the 2009 European Championships.
The 33 year old centre-back currently plays for Arsenal, and wants to do her two children back home proud.
Last Meeting: France 3-0 England (18th July 2013)
England finished bottom of Group C and were knocked out of Euro 2013 after being outclassed by France in Sweden. Les Bleues looked imposing from the start and Eugenie Le Sommer opened the scoring early on with a crisp strike. Karen Bardsley saved efforts from Elodie Thomis and Louisa Necib, while England did not have a chance on goal until Toni Duggan’s shot after an hour. But two goals in three minutes ended the contest thanks to Necib’s clever finish before Wendie Renard headed in. They came as England enjoyed their best spell of the game and extinguished any prospect of Hope Powell’s team reaching the last eight.
The France Lowdown
- Manager: Philippe Bergeroo
- Captain: Wendie Renard
- World Ranking: 3rd
- Best World Cup Performance: Fourth Place (2011)
Star Player – Louisa Necib
Labelled the ‘Female Zidane’ by the French press, Louisa Necib has more in common with the former Galatico than just her Algerian ancestry and Marseille upbringing. The attacking midfielder has a silky touch on the ball, unparalleled vision and sublime passing skills, making her a genuine threat in the final third. In a nutshell, Necib is widely regarded as one of the most technically proficient female footballers on the planet. France will be hoping to improve on their fourth-place finish from 2011, and the Lyon star will be key to their chances of making the final. Whatever happens, the 28 year old will be pulling the strings from midfield and creating opportunities for the three French strikers in front of her.
Goals. As aforementioned, France scored an average of 5.4 goals per game in qualifying and their attacking 4-3-3 formation allows for plenty of attempts on goal. They were semi-finalists in 2011 and the core of that young side is now four years more experienced. Having won the U17 World Cup in 2012, the future looks bright too. The team is strong all over the pitch, with the mixture of youth and experience being blended brilliantly by coach Philippe Bergeroo.
While France’s reputation on the international scene is growing, they come into the tournament with something of a bridesmaids tag. They finished fourth in the 2011 World Cup and the 2012 Olympic Games, and were eliminated from Euro 2013 at the quarter-final stage by Denmark. They don’t have the belief that a history of success has engendered in other tournament favourites like the USA and Germany.
My Prediction: France 2-1 England
France definitely have a better squad than England with plenty of world class players which could cause the Lionesses problems. But there’s tricky players in Mark Sampson’s side too, who want to prove that they can be up there with the best. They should score, perhaps through Lianne Sanderson, but France’s quality will show and two goals from Gaetane Thiney will give them the win which, even at this stage, should see them top Group F.