England can confirm their place in the knockout stages of the 2019 Women’s World Cup by defeating Argentina at the Stade Oceane in Le Havre on Friday (8pm live on BBC1).
England Women began the tournament with a 2-1 win over Scotland on Sunday. In combination with Argentina’s surprise 0-0 draw with Japan, another three points against Argentina will be enough to see them through after two of three matches.
Phil Neville’s side got the win against Scotland, but neither he nor his players were entirely happy with the performance. England benefited from an early penalty, converted by Nikita Parris, and then doubled their advantage at the end of a dominant first-half when Ellen White finished well from inside the area. They weren’t as strong after the break.
England never looked in true danger of giving up their advantage and they did also create a good chance for White, which was well-saved. Scotland were able to put a bit of pressure on their defence and even pulled a goal back just over 10 minutes from time when they seized upon a misplaced pass out of defence from England captain Steph Houghton to move forward and score. That was, though, the last time they mustered an effort on goal.
A bit of rustiness can perhaps be forgiven at this stage, but Neville will be keen for a more polished performance from the first whistle to the last on Friday. “We set standards and the players have to keep meeting them,” he said afterwards. “We cannot drop below those standards. We have to keep being ruthless.”
The top UK bookies have not been overly impressed. They have held England at around 7/1 third-favourites to win the Women’s World Cup, especially in light of USA’s opening 13-0 destruction of Thailand.
There were, though, reasons to draw optimism from that first half display. Lucy Bronze, Jill Scott (who was involved in much of England’s best work) and Nikita Parris combined well over towards the right. Ellen White looked very sharp up front and they barely gave up an effort of note at the other end. Yet Neville, his staff and players will all be aware that there will be much tougher challenges to come if they are to make significant progress.
On paper, Argentina Women shouldn’t be a side capable of providing such a challenge. Per the pre-tournament FIFA rankings, they are one of the six worst teams in the tournament. At the FFA Cup of Nations earlier this year, they lost matches against South Korea, New Zealand and Australia by a combined score of 0-10. The way in which they scrapped their way to an unexpected draw with Japan in their opener suggests they shouldn’t be taken too lightly.
It wasn’t just a case of a plucky underdog benefitting from a bit of good fortune. Argentina produced a legitimately good defensive performance to limit Japan to just eight shots. Vanina Correa made a solid diving save to parry out one accurate effort from outside the area, and Japan failed to aim another presentable opportunity on target. Argentina otherwise prevented the seventh-ranked team in the world from creating much at all.
Not only were they well-organised defensively, but in their skilled number 10, Estefania Banini, they had a valuable release valve, capable of holding the ball, drawing fouls and easing the pressure on the defence.
It was easy to see just how much the result meant to the Argentina players by the tears of joy that accompanied the final whistle. In their third World Cup appearance, it was the first time they had picked up a point. Like many of the women playing at this tournament, they have also had to fight tooth and nail to receive adequate support from their federation.
Our Preview’s England Women vs. Argentina Women Betting Tips Verdict
Argentina will certainly try to make things just as awkward for England on Friday. It would, though, probably be fair to say that England possess a greater variety of attacking options than Japan, a side they defeated 3-0 in the SheBelieves Cup earlier this year. They should, therefore, have the necessary firepower to eventually secure a pretty comfortable victory.
The bookmakers make England 1/12 to win this match. This preview expects an England win by at least a three-goal margin, so this is our suggested bet:
- Back England -2.5 goals @ 7/8 (almost evens) with Bet365.