In 2015, England was a Laura Bassett stoppage time own goal from taking Japan to extra time of their World Cup semifinal. It was a crushing blow, and one that could have had long-lasting negative effects on their program. Since then, England reached the semifinals of the 2017 Euro, going out to hosts and eventual champions the Netherlands, parted with coach Mark Sampson, and then ran roughshod over their World Cup qualifying group. I think they’re doing alright.
England goes to France with a good mixture of experience and potential. Lucy Bronze is still tearing up and down the pitch, Karen Carney remains a midfield fixture, and Steph Houghton still wears the captain’s armband. Meanwhile, players like Millie Bright, Beth Mead, and Nikita Parris have proven to be constant inclusions in coach Phil Neville’s side.
How They’ve Fared
This is the fifth World Cup for the Lionesses, and their best finish is third place in 2015.
How They Qualified
Excepting a 0-0 draw against Wales in Southampton, England won all of their Group 1 games, easily winning the group and qualifying with a +28 goal differential and just one goal conceded.
Player You Know
If you’ve watched England anytime since 2005, you’re probably familiar with Karen Carney. The active leader in goals scored (32) and appearances (140) for her country, Carney won three league titles with Arsenal before moving to the Chicago Red Stars, then of the WPS, in 2009. She moved to Chelsea in 2015, where her five goals helped Chelsea to a WSL championship. Now 31 years old, this is Carney’s third World Cup, and I expect it to be her best.
Player You’ll Know Soon
Fresh off a May move from Manchester City to Lyon, Nikita Parris is ready to truly arrive in France. The 25-year-old forward scored 33 goals in 59 appearances for City before moving to arguably the best team in the world. She’s only played 33 times for England, but she’s scored 12 goals already. Quick and nimble, Parris is also good with her back to goal, threatening defenders with a well-rounded game, and the ability to score from wherever she picks up the ball. Look for more runs like this in France:
World Cup Outlook
They may have just lost 1-0 at home in a friendly to New Zealand, but make no mistake about this: England is good enough to win the World Cup. I think they’ll edge Japan out to win their group, at which point they’ll get a third place team in the round of 16, and then face off against a group runner-up in the quarterfinals. That could be a very easy route to the semifinals, and one they should have little trouble traversing.