It’s been a seemingly flawless World Cup so far for England's Lionesses and their manager Phil Neville.
They have a 100% record, winning all three group games and won 3-0 in their eventful second round match against Cameroon, with goals courtesy of Steph Houghton, Ellen White and Alex Greenwood.
Despite the manager’s personnel tinkering, defensively they have been strong, conceding only one goal in their four contests in the tournament so far.
The scoreline showed England qualified for the quarter-finals rather convincingly, but it’s fair to say that the game against Cameroon was anything but as it was marred in controversy, with Cameroon heavily protesting two VAR decisions against them.
Ellen White notched England’s second on the stroke of half time, it was initially ruled out before VAR proved White was onside. Cameroon reacted furiously, temporarily refusing to re-start play, and there was further despair when VAR correctly ruled out an effort from Cameroon’s Ajara Nchout at the start of the second half.
Ultimately, the Lionesses showed their class and scored a third from a well worked corner dispatching a side 43 places below them in the world rankings.
England now face Norway in the quarter-finals and the Scandinavian’s progressed by beating Australia on penalties, after a second-place finish in the group stages where their only defeat came at the hands of tournament hosts France.
The Lionesses are heavy favourites to reach their third major tournament semi-final but are sweating on the fitness of their inspirational captain Houghton, as the defender sustained an injury at the end of Sunday’s victory in a contentious challenge, being caught high above the ankle.
Manager Phil Neville expressed his concern regarding her availability for the game in Le Havre.
“We’re concerned about her, she’s not someone that stays down.
“It was a late tackle and we’re going to have to do everything possible to get her fit for the quarter-final. She’s a big player for us, our captain.”
The two sides have met once before in the World Cup, when England came out on top in 2015, winning 2-1 in the round of 16. For Norway to progress, they will need to tighten up at the back in the last quarter of the game, as they conceded three of their four tournament goals in the last 20 minutes of action, whereas England have been making fast starts, scoring five of eight goals in the first half.
Ellen White is currently England’s top scorer with four goals, she is 5/1 to score first on Thursday.
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