After limping to three points with an uninspired performance against Haiti, Sarina Wiegman opted to make two changes to her starting eleven ahead of this crunch tie against Denmark. Lauren Hemp was dropped to the bench in order to create space for Lauren James, while Rachel Daly made the cut – albeit at left back, replacing Jess Carter.
ENG: Earps; Daly, Greenwood, Bright, Bronze; Walsh, Stanway, Toone; Kelly, Russo, James
DEN: Christensen; Veje, Boye, Ballisager, Sevecke; Kühl, K Holmgaard, Hasbo; Madsen, Harder, Thomsen
The Lionesses looked to be more relaxed throughout the opening stages, and it wasn’t long before Sarina Wiegman’s two changes made their mark, with Rachel Daly teeing up Lauren James for the opener. Neat, patient buildup play saw the left-back pick out the Chelsea star, who jinked through towards goal, unleashing a spectacular strike from the edge of the box into the far corner.
England’s early pressure seemed unrelenting, with the rød-hvide pinned back into their own penalty area for large periods of the first twenty minutes. From distance, Ella Toone attempted to turn and quickly hit a thunderous effort – though it was launched right into the arms of a grateful Lena Christensen.
Yet a momentary lack of concentration from the Lionesses saw Denmark come close to taking the lead against the run of play, as Rilke Madsen managed to get the better of Alex Greenwood before spurning her shot wide of the far post. The second opportunity followed just seconds later, with Jenni Thomsen firing over the target – and Pernille Harder was soon allowed acres of space on the left flank as she cut inside to get a shot off.
But England would be dealt a huge blow with ten minutes remaining in the first half – with a serious injury to Keira Walsh posing problems for Sarina Wiegman’s side, both throughout the match and seemingly over the next year or so. An awkward landing saw the Barça midfielder’s knee under immense pressure, with the number four insistent immediately that ‘I’ve done my knee.’
Another apparent ACL injury spells trouble for the Lionesses this summer, as they’re already without the likes of Leah Williamson and Beth Mead for the same reason – but it first and foremost highlights the desperate need for further research into the frequency of severe knee injuries within women’s sport.
As the second half commenced, the Lionesses sough to extend their lead through a series of corners – and although none came to fruition, Sarina Wiegman’s side were by far the more promising. The introduction of Bethany England looked to add the threat of a clinical goalscorer to the front line.
Yet it was Denmark’s hero against China, Amalie Vangsgaard, that came closest to scoring – with her headed effort striking the outside of the post as England failed to mark the forward closely enough.
Despite a rather tense final few minutes, England cling on to take three points as they edge closer to sealing their spot in the round-of-sixteen. China will face Haiti later on Friday, before Group D action resumes on August 1. England will face China, while Denmark play Haiti as they strive to seal a place in the knockout rounds.