Doing the bare minimum to win seems to be England’s way in this World Cup. The Three Lionesses have a pair of 1-0 wins in the tournament, including the win over Denmark early Friday morning. Already without Leah Williamson, Beth Mead, and Fran Kirby for the global showcase, Keira Walsh was taken off on a stretcher late in the first half, putting the United Kingdom’s finest down four legitimate starters against the rest of the world. That’s not going to be a recipe for success.
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Lauren James scored early, it was an impressive display, no doubt. And China hasn’t shown a thing in the group stage that should burst England’s bubble in a Group D finale. Then you realize it will take four knockout-round victories for the Brits to lift another trophy. How slim did those chances look before coming to Australia and New Zealand? And what has England done to move that needle in the right direction to offset its roster dropping like flies? Two wins! Yay! And there was much rejoicing. Hopefully those in the United Kingdom get that joke, derived from the brains of one of your greatest exports, Eric Idle. Mad? Always look on the bright side of life!
And now for something completely different, more talk about England disappointing! After last summer’s European championship and taking down the United States in that mega-friendly at Wembley Stadium last October, the Three Lionesses looked primed to be one of the favorites, especially among teams that had never won a Women’s World Cup before. Everything is still on the table for England, but what confidence do you have that down four of its best players, and a pair of 1-goal wins over lesser teams, that it could compete with an actual heavy hitter? Germany kicks its ass, the United States does too. Give me Sweden, Spain, Brazil, and probably more over the English. The Brits will be looked back at as disappointments from this tournament alongside Canada and South Korea.
England will likely get a Round of 16 matchup against Australia, Nigeria or Canada. If Sam Kerr is healthy, first flight back to Heathrow. If Canada can tie its shoes correctly, unlike it did for the first 120 minutes of its stay Down Under, bye-bye Britain. Nigeria has looked impressive and would give England a great game. So enjoy the Three Lionesses in the World Cup, while supplies last.
Almost a half day before China and Haiti played the day’s final match, Argentina and South Africa played to a 2-2 draw, with the South Americans saving their World Cup lives with two late second-half goals. Neither of these teams is likely to advance to the knockout stages with Sweden and Italy also in Group G. And the way both teams got exposed quickly in either half only gives that prediction credence.
As far as the most bitter team from Day 9 of the World Cup goes, Haiti wins hands down, losing to China 1-0. Not only did the North Americans play a woman up for most of the match, as China’s Zhang Rui was handed a red card in the 29th minute, the Haitians had a few legitimate shouts for penalty kicks not heard from the referee, or overturned by VAR. After playing tough against England in its opener, Haiti is in a must-win situation to advance against Denmark in its Group D finale.