England still may not match their showing in Canada four years ago, but I do think there’s positives to take from this World Cup campaign.
The right side produced some of the best (or at least my favourite) football of the tournament, while they had strong underlying numbers in every game. America changing to 5-4-1 early in the second half helped but, after an initial flurry of shots, England looked pretty even with the US, they just didn’t do enough in the final third to turn possession into shots.
I think my main bugbear with Neville is changing the team and system for the game against the US. Norway’s performance helped, but the game against Norway was where it looked like things had started to click, after a stop-start game against Cameroon.
With the ball, England looked strong, combining well on the right and creating both a good quantity and quality of chances. Without the ball they did a great job of stopping Norway progressing the ball through the midfield, with their attackers not being able to receive the ball how they did against Australia.
To go and alter things that have been working before the biggest game just doesn’t make much sense to me.
Moving on from here I’d quite like to see England bring in Leah Williamson for Millie Bright to help with the build-up and progression from defence, while also having the left sided midfield player’s movement be more like that of Jill Scott’s on the other side. I think Fran Kirby’s capable of doing this, but it’d be quite nice to see Jordan Nobbs be given a chance there should she recapture her pre-injury form.
In attack I don’t think there needs to be a personnel change but it does feel as though England need to find a way to get their wingers into goal scoring areas more often.
With England combining well down the flanks and capable of getting into good cutback areas, it feels as though there’s a window for the wingers to chip in with some goals. Both Mead and Parris have played upfront, so both seem great candidates to be goalscoring wingers who arrive at the back post when the ball is being cut back from the other side, but it’s not something that happened during the World Cup.
Failing that, it’d also be nice to see England take more shots, particularly in even games. While I’m not advocating for 30-yard potshots, both Mead and Kirby on the left seem capable of opening their body up and digging out a few shots in and around the edge of the area, yet both finished the tournament with just 3 shots each.
Having said that this is my first real venture into women’s football, I can’t compare this World Cup campaign to the last and judge if any progress has been made, but I do think there are reasons to be optimistic about this England side. There’s still a lot of room for improvement, but there’s also lots of positives to be taken from the performances in this campaign.