Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Fran-tastic Kirby Sets Up England Win

England survived a tense game on Saturday to overcome Mexico 2-1 in Moncton.

After a pallid first half, the game took off after the break, with Fran Kirby and substitute Karen Carney putting the sixth FIFA-ranked side two goals ahead, before Mexico’s Ibarra gave England a fright with a late consolation goal.

After a defensive style in their first game was affected, coach Mark Sampson’s team set up to attack Mexico. The first half was beset with nerves, both sides winless in their opening fixture, and the results were telling. Attacks were short-lived and error strewn, with neither side able to break free of the shackles of World Cup group stage pressure.

Fran Kirby's moment of magic set England on their way to victory.

Glimpses of England’s quality shone through, but never for long enough. Aluko looked to get on the ball regularly, but to little avail.

The second half however offered greater intensity, and England regained their composure, controlling more of the possession and linking together far more intricately with each other to put Mexico on the back foot. Chances began arriving, and it was only when it looked as if it mightn’t be England’s day, that Fran Kirby made sure it was.

Recycling the ball after an attack had broken down, Kirby arrived to collect possession on the edge of Mexico’s penalty area. One touch to take it away from the first defender, a second to take it away from the attempted block of another, and a third to poke the ball past the incoming goalkeeper Santiago made for a memorable World Cup moment.

Having gone ahead England’s dominance only increased, and it was nine minutes later that the two substitutes, Greenwood and Carney, combined to seal victory. Greenwood collected Duggan’s cutback, sent the ball curling into the penalty area, and Carney stooped to head past Santiago and double England’s advantage.

England’s forward-play had been vindicated, but they were given a timely reminder of the importance of an all-round effort of attack and defence at a World Cup.

With England going for a third goal instead of controlling their 2-0 lead, Mexico looked dangerous in the final stages of the game. The result was a goal on the counter-attack by Mexico, who ensured England a nervy final few minutes before the three points were secured, resulting in England sitting second in the group.


Mark Sampson's side improved as the game grew.

England will have to combine the defensive ability they showed against France with the second half performance against Mexico when they face group-topping Colombia. It will be a test of their big-stage mentality, but they can play safe in the knowledge that third-place does not necessarily end their tournament. The four best third-placed finishes will go through to the next round, but England would do well to send a message to the rest of the tournament by taking their chance to win this tricky group.

England play Colombia at 21:00 on Wednesday 17 June. The game is broadcast on BBC Three.

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