Cast your mind back 23 months ago, and you may (or may not) remember England battering Scotland 6-0 in the 2017 Women’s Euros. Jodie Taylor ran riot and notched a hat-trick, along with three more goals from Ellen White, Jordan Nobbs and Toni Duggan. But, nearly two years later, in what will be Scotland’s first World Cup, the gap isn’t as obvious as it once was. Surprisingly.
Some of that is England’s doing, in what has been an odd pre-tournament warm up. After winning the SheBelieves Cup in March, Phil Neville has used their four friendly games to chop and change his starting XI.
Not even the experts really know what formation or players he’ll start with, and that experiment has shown in England’s results; winning two games against Spain and Denmark (the former of which finished last in their group in the last World Cup, and the latter of which didn’t qualify), and losing two against New Zealand and Canada.
But credit where credit is due; Shelley Kerr has greatly improved her side since that day in July 2017. She can also rely on this year’s Women’s Super League winner, Kim Little, as she was missed in midfield in the Euros because of injury. She’s an important cog in Scotland’s play with 53 goals from 133 appearances.
There’s also Little’s Arsenal teammate Lisa Evans, both who link up seamlessly in their WSL team. Then there’s FA Cup winner, and Manchester City player, Caroline Weir, as well as newcomer and young star in Chelsea’s Erin Cuthbert, who scored a screamer in their last friendly, a 3-2 win against Jamaica.
However, their preparations have been that game, a Brazil side in turmoil and against Chile. This paired with their lack of big tournament experience, and who knows how they’ll turn up.
But for everything Scotland may have, the Lionesses can trump.
They have an abundance of talent going forward, both in starting eleven and talent that can change the game coming off the bench. Nikita Parris, who is moving from Manchester City to Lyon, will want to prove her worth to the club who have won four Champions League titles in a row. She was England’s top scorer in qualifying with six goals.
You then have Duggan who tore up the Champions League and La Liga with Barcelona, Lucy Bronze who is arguably the best right-back in Europe, Jill Scott who can make something out of nothing, Beth Mead who is looking to make her mark, Steph Houghton who is a natural born leader in defence and good on the receiving end of set-pieces. I could go on and on and on. I’ve not even touched on Fran Kirby or Karen Carney.
This will make for an exciting game because of both sides’ ability to score goals, and Over 2.5 Goals seems a cert at 3/4.
With England just 2/9 in a match that’s basically a home nation derby and an opening game in a major competition that could be cagey, I can’t recommend backing them at that price. It could potentially be a banana skin. The best way to play the Lionesses here, in a game that should have goals is to back them in the To Win and Both Teams To Score market at 12/5.
What else can we try and figure out in an expected goalfest? Who will be curling it into the top corner of course. As I mentioned, England have a lot of talent up front, but trying to guess who will score for them let alone who will actually start, is a difficult job.
So, it’s best to turn your attention to Scotland. Cuthbert, at the ripe age of 20 years old, has been a shining star for both club and country. She already has seven goals in 26 caps for the Scottish and with them expected to play the counter-attack against England, with her pace, she might be the one who gets the goal. 4/1 for her to score anytime is value.