England played Argentina in the Women’s World Cup this evening, writer Sarah Arnold gives a full match report.
England have sealed their place in the knockout stages of the World Cup with a 1-0 win over Argentina.
Jodie Taylor’s goal in the second half sent them through to the last 16 of the competition. They were never really challenged by the Argentinian side but if it wasn’t for their goalkeeper, Vanina Correa, the score would have been more flattering towards England.
It was a game with teams that have come from complete opposites. England is ranked third in the world, have 22 support staff and in 2018, there was almost £18 million invested in the team. Whereas, Argentina is ranked 37th in the world and three years ago, they didn’t even have a team. The Argentine Football Association removed all funding from the team when they failed to qualify for the 2015 World Cup. A row ensued and there was no team for a few years.
When they reformed in 2017, the footballers were meant to be paid £7 (!) in expenses while playing for the team but they were not receiving the payments promptly. On another occasion, they spent the night sleeping on a bus because accommodation was not provided for them. I can’t see that ever being the case for the male team, spearheaded by Lionel Messi.
Within the squad sent to France, 14 players don’t even play professionally. What they didn’t have in support from their local FA, they have in grit. The team went into the game not being afraid of England.
Chelsea Women manager, Emma Hayes said these games worry her more than the obvious ones because of complacency. “There’s a natural assumption that England will win this game. If complacency creeps in, then it will be reflected in the performance.”
They got off to a flying start and had their first chance within 25 seconds when skills between Nikita Parris and Fran Kirby’s quick movements got the ball to the head of Lucy Bronze. Sadly, she was only able to head it wide of the post, but the precedent was set for the game.
England continued to dominate early with Beth Mead able to run down the left wing doing her best to create chances. She wasn’t afraid to run at the Argentinian defenders. They continued to pile on the pressure; moments later Jill Scott was on the receiving end from a superb cross from Bronze, but she was only able to send it to the hands of the Correa.
It was a physical first half and while England was dominating you could see their frustrations and lack of patience sneak in. All England had to do was be patient and with time, the Argentinian mistake would happen and they’d be able to maximise on it.
Then, in the 27th minute, Alex Greenwood was on the receiving end of a brilliant ball from Mead but was taken down by Linda Bravo. The referee paused much longer than she should have before pointing to the spot.
Parris stepped up, just like she did against Scotland. It’s a shame we didn’t see the same result; she didn’t hit the ball high enough and Correa makes another great save.
The first half was the Correa show; time and time again she kept Argentina in the game. She provided confidence to her teammates and without her efforts, England would have been well in front.
Before half time, England stepped up the pace but still went into the break scoreless. It took only five minutes into the second half for Correa to make another amazing save when Parris sent a shot goal bound. The ball was heading straight for the keeper, but she dealt with it well and Argentina was still in the game, even though they had only 25% of the possession.
Just after the hour mark, England finally got their goal. Jill Scott was able to launch a counterattack before linking up with Kirby. She played it out left to Mead who beautifully crossed it into Jodie Taylor. She hadn’t scored in over a year but it didn’t seem like it when she slipped the ball into the back of the net. This time Correa didn’t have a chance.
After Taylor’s goal, the game slowed down. Argentina tried to break a few times but they didn’t look like a serious threat at any point. So much so that England goalkeeper Carly Telford barely got to see the ball all night.
Phil Neville introduced some substitutions in the last ten minutes – more to give players airtime than anything.
After the final whistle, Neville exclaimed, “I thought we were outstanding.” This made a radical change from the footage of him shouting expletives at the team after the Scotland game.
His team weren’t challenged in this game and Argentina’s goalkeeper kept them in it for much longer than they deserved. Their real test comes on Wednesday when we see if they can finish the group strongly when they play 2015 finalists Japan.