Disappointment for England before the Women's World Cup


Why England’s draw against Portugal could be considered a loss

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By Millie Simon

On Saturday, 1 July, England played Portugal in Milton Keynes, finishing in a goalless draw.

It was a big game for England – who wanted to have a positive send-off before the World Cup – and Portugal – who have entered their first–ever World Cup tournament.

England’s draw may have set a worrying precedent for the rest of the World Cup, especially since they have had a target on their back since their success at the European Championships last summer.

Saturday’s game was a significant opportunity for England to demonstrate they are major contenders for the World Cup, especially since Portugal is currently ranked 21st whilst England is ranked 4th.

England dominated Saturday’s game in terms of possession but struggled to finish their chances as Alessia Russo went wide of the post twice, Lucy Bronze hit the side post, and Georgia Stanway hit the crossbar just before half-time.

Before Sarina Wiegman, the England manager, subbed Russo on, she had Rachael Daly as the preferred striker, but Daly struggled to create promising chances in getting the ball in the back of the net. Daly looked isolated at the top, as England’s midfield struggled to press high enough to support Daly. Once Georgia Stanway started to push higher up the pitch, the possibility of a goal seemed more realistic.

England’s backline looked a little unstable too. After having to change England’s defence numerous times due to injuries, Wiegman put Manchester City’s Esme Morgan as the central defender. Morgan often pushed a little too high for a defender, forcing the right and left backs to push with her. The only exception to this was Jess Carter, who was left to race back a number of times and defend solely. Nevertheless, Carter remained calm and efficient at neutralising the Portuguese threat, which is why Jess Carter is my player of the match.

It was clear by the second half that Morgan had been told to maintain the back line to better support Carter. Perhaps this is why the draw against Portugal isn’t such a defeat.

The advantage of a friendly allows England to test their starting eleven and test the impact of their substitutes before the World Cup officially begins.

Even though England would have wanted to win on Saturday, the game has allowed Wiegman to assess the weak points in the team and fix them before the group stage in late July.

Once Alessia Russo, Chloe Kelly and Niamh Charles were substituted on, England’s tactics were altered by pressing higher, which created more chances. However, Portugal's defence was the primary reason England struggled to score any goals, particularly given their strong performance in the second half.

There was a tense moment when the Portuguese goalkeeper came too far out and Russo seemed to have a clear shot, but Portuguese defender Anna Borges managed to slide in just as Russo took the shot and put the ball out of play.

In theory, Saturday’s game could teach England how to maintain their back line earlier on in the game whilst allowing them to utilise opportunities to break the opposition’s defence.

England’s first game is 22 July against Haiti, and Portugal’s first game is 23 July against former European champions, the Netherlands.