News of Englands injury problems may have been greatly exaggerated.
If the build-up to the Lionesses World Cup quarter-final against Norway was dominated by discussion over the potential absentees, then the event itself could hardly have been more different.
All those said to be struggling played – and played their part in what felt like a watershed moment for womens football.
England showed their frailties and fallibilities but also their brilliant interplay and red-hot finishing ability. And at the end of a pulsating, engrossing night in Le Havre it was England who progressed to the semi-finals in Lyon on Tuesday.
All the while the nation watched on gripped. Englands 20,000 fans inside the Stade Oceane made themselves heard. Children recreated Ellen Whites now-familiar glasses celebration. Thousands of Glastonbury attendees jumped up in front of big screens – put on at the request of midfielder Georgia Stanway.
Perhaps the most exciting thing is that, despite recording a second successive 3-0 win and fourth successive clean sheet, England are nowhere near their peak.
There was plenty of sloppy passing, defensive mishaps and hairy moments. If they could marry attacking flare with defensive stability and midfield consistency then there is no reason to think they couldnt be the ones lifting the trophy next Sunday.
Strong right side
While there are obvious weaknesses, it was Englands obvious strengths which defined their night in Normandy.
Much was made of Norways dangerous overlapping fullbacks, but it was the Lionesses marauding right-back who made the difference. Lucy Bronze was exceptional, adding a trademark power-strike – just like her winner in the 2015 World Cup meeting between these sides – to her decisive run and pass for Jill Scotts opener.
Bronzes combination with right-winger Nikita Parris, supplemented by the tireless Scott, was absolutely devastating all night, working like a can-opener on Norways defence.
It was Bronze who got to the byline within three minutes to square for Scott, who benefitted from Whites accidental dummy to scuff in off the post and give England the perfect start.
The right-sided bias continued, with Parris skying on her left foot after cutting inside and White striking the post white a volley from Parris clever pass, but Norway were not to be let off the hook.
Steph Houghton sent Bronze on her way and the right-back played Parris inside the beleaguered Norwegian full-back to put a fifth goal of the tournament on a plate for White and prompt that joyous, distinctive celebration.
The crowning moment came when Bronze blasted into the roof of the net from the edge of the box having strangely been ignored by the Norway defence from a free-kick shed won via a determined run.
Englands defence may have shaken off injuries and illnesses to keep anotherRead More – Source