Next up on our list of Women’s World Cup previews is group D. This group houses England, Scotland, Argentina and Japan – there’s a couple of heavyweight clashes in there as well as a rivalry that stretches back as far as the beginning of football. All-in-all, this is poised to be a very entertaining group.
Coach: Phil Neville
England come into this tournament on the back of a great win in the SheBelieves Cup in Spring of this year. Phil Neville has a side blessed with talent and has seemingly has the perfect blend of experience and youthful exuberance. With a lot of the names in the team having played a key part in England’s third place finish in 2015, expectations are high for England to go and do one better – perhaps even two better.
We’re expecting either a flat 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 during the tournament, the reality is that Phil Neville will likely tinker with his team between games depending on the opposition. Against teams like Scotland and Argentina, you’ll likely see the 4-2-3-1 with a focus on attacking football and getting the best out of Chelsea star Fran Kirby in the number ten role. Against the likes of Japan and other top teams, we might see three in the middle to try and stop the team from being overrun in the midfield.
In attack, Neville has plenty to choose from with Toni Duggan, Nikita Parris, Jodie Taylor, Beth Mead and Ellen White all more than capable of bringing goals. Jodie Taylor is perhaps England’s most dangerous forward – the striker finished as top scorer at Euro 2017 and if she can find her form, there’s no reason why she cannot repeat that feat this year. With Barcelona star Toni Duggan and Olympique Lyon’s Nikita Parris likely to start on the wings, England should be a force to be reckoned with going forward.
Defensively, Neville has a pretty settled back four. With perhaps the best full-back in the world in Lucy Bronze starting on the right, with skipper Steph Houghton and Millie Bright in the middle and one of Demi Stokes or Alex Greenwood at left-back, the team are in good shape defensively.
England are in a great position coming into the World Cup and if they can get through the group without much trouble, they have a great chance of going on to win the whole lot. Their campaign gets underway against Scotland on Sunday evening – UK readers can catch that on BBC One.
Coach: Asako Takakura
The inspirational World Cup winning team of 2011 is no more, Japan aren’t quite the irresistible force they used to be, but that doesn’t mean Asako Takakura’s side aren’t still in with a shot. After glory in World Cup’s at U17 level in 2014 and U20 level in 2018, the future still looks bright for the Japanese – this World Cup though, may not be the one.
Takakura’s team are very goal shy at the moment as the coach preaches a very entertaining style of football that doesn’t always work. Currently, it’s a case of if they don’t score first, they won’t win the game – so the focus throughout the World Cup will no doubt be keeping clean sheets. They are in a great place to do just that too with the likes Saki Kumagai and Aya Sameshima in defence – both of these girls were youngsters in the 2011 World Cup side but come into this tournament as experienced veterans.
In midfield, Japan have the now experienced Emi Nakajima in their side. For those who don’t know her, she’s a set-piece master who is more than capable of finding the net or the head of a teammate with either foot. Despite being 28-years-old, Nakajima is about to feature in her first ever World Cup.
Having won just three games out of a possible 19 against teams in the Top 10 of the FIFA world rankings under Takakura, it’s difficult to see Japan going on to win this tournament. If they switch to a more defensively minded system rather than looking to play entertaining attacking football, you never know. However, if their recent record is anything to go by, a round of 16 exit seems the most likely scenario.
Coach: Michelle Kerr
Scotland come into this World Cup with a growing list of proven winners in their ranks. From the likes of Kim Little and Jen Beattie, the team is full of players who know what it takes to win having tasted glory with their club sides this season.
Coach Michelle Kerr will be hoping her side can avoid injuries throughout the tournament as her side most definitely lack the depth some of the bigger nations possess. The team have done everything they possibly can to be fit for the tournament – star player Kim Little recovered from a broken leg she suffered in October much quicker than anticipated, you’d think these World Cup finals were her motivation.
Qualifying for this World Cup wasn’t such a walk in the park for Kerr’s team. As it’s only the top team in each of the qualifying groups that get automatic entry into the tournament, it was always going to be difficult. Fortunately, they managed to nick that top spot on the final day of qualifying as they took advantage dropping points against Poland to beat Albania 2-1.
A bit of trivia for you now, Birmingham City’s Chloe Arthur and Manchester City’s Claire Emslie will both adorn nicknames on their boots in France. The pair used to play together at Bristol City and away from the field, they also worked together in a bar – earning them the nicknames “Lime” and “Soda”.
Coach: Carlos Borrello
12 years on from their last World Cup, Argentina come in to this tournament with little preparation and a team that includes many semi-professional players. A far cry from the star studded Argentinian men’s team, the women were only given professional status mere months ago.
As mentioned above, the major issue for Carlos Borrello and his team is a lack of preparation. After having barely played between the 2015 Pan American games and the 2018 Copa America, Argentina have played just one season of football and just a few friendlies to warm up for France ’19.
The team Borrello is taking to the World Cup is largely the same as the one he took to the Copa America last time out. Based on what they have done in the past, we expect Argentina to line up in a 4-3-3 formation. Estefania Banini is the star player in the side, the creative midfielder currently plays for Levante in the Spanish top division and has been dubbed “La Messi”.
Considering they’re in a group where all three of the opposition teams are in the FIFA Top 20, it’s unlikely Argentina will make much of an impact on this tournament. However, with the recent announcement of a 16 team professional women’s division in Argentina, they could be a one to look out for further down the line.