England surpassed expectations to end up the top of the group and finished winning three games out of three, taking maximum points for the first time ever at a World Cup. They did it in some style too, even keeping a clean sheet against a team who won the World Cup not long ago.
But it wasn’t without its challenges (again).
In the first half against Japan, they were the team on top, just like their match against Scotland, and by some distance. It only took Ellen White 14 minutes to score, assisted by 20-year-old talent Georgia Stanway.
The Lionesses also snared four shots on goal and it could’ve been a lot worse for the Japanese. Any of the latter’s attacks seemed to fall apart before the final third and they were surprisingly bad at creating openings.
But they kept it to the one goal into half-time, and yet again England fell away in the second half. Japan took charge, changing a sloppy Yuika Sugasawa for Kumi Yokoyama, and she made the attack flow a lot better than in the opening 45. They made chances, got shots on target and Karen Bardsley had to stretch for one amazing save to keep England’s advantage.
Substitutes Nikita Parris and Karen Carney turned it back though, with pace on the right side leading to chances, and in the 84th minute Carney played the ball to White to make it 2-0 and England had won the group.
Cameroon also qualified with style. Although they didn’t have much in possession (46%) they created 22 chances with seven on target against New Zealand, who only made three in the whole match. With the game at 1-1 deep into injury time and both teams going out, Cameroon’s Gabrielle Onguene, in the 95th minute, with the very last kick of the match curled it in the right-bottom corner and put her side into the round of 16.
England are unsurprisingly 1/8 to win this match, and as amazing as Cameroon were against New Zealand and in keeping Canada to a 1-0 win, against a free-flowing team they’ll find difficulty.
The Netherlands’ 3-1 win proved that.
There are ways to bump up the price, and I think England to Win and Both Teams To Score is the right way to go at 15/8. Cameroon are efficient in creating chances, even if they’re struggling. The winner they scored against New Zealand and the goal against the Netherlands were full of flair, and with how the Lionesses drop off in the second half, their opponents could get something.
Phil Neville keeps making us guess with his line-ups. I am very sure he’ll make changes, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Parris comes back into the side. Making spaces to score, demanding the ball; her skill is just amazing. They’ll need her pace against Cameroon. Back her to score anytime at ??.
Lastly, VAR. Whether you love it or loathe it you can’t deny it creates drama. Well, drama and penalties. You may as well back a penalty being awarded because there haven’t been many games without them.