How It Unfolded: Group D at the FIFA Women’s World Cup

England looked to have been handed a fairly easy group at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, as they were drawn alongside Denmark, China and Haiti – with the latter of those sides making their debut at the tournament. All six games have now been played, and it’s time to look back at how the Group D action unfolded.

Matchday One

England v Haiti (1-0)

These two nations had never encountered one another in a women’s match before this point, but England were expected to cruise to a comfortably victory against the debutants. That was far from the case though, with Roselord Borgella coming close to opening the scoring just before the fifteen-minute mark.

The Lionesses though they would be awarded an opportunity to take the lead from the penalty spot when Dayana Pierre-Louis stamped on Chloe Kelly’s foot inside the area, but a VAR review found that Alessia Russo had fouled Tabita Joseph in the buildup – and the penalty appeals were swiftly dismissed.

Sarina Wiegman’s side were granted a chance from twelve yards soon after though, with Batcheba Louis found to have handled an incoming cross. While Georgia Stanway’s first effort was saved well by Kerly Théus, a replay found that the Haitian goalkeeper had encroached on the area – and the Bayern Munich midfielder made no mistake on her second attempt.

Haiti looked to find a way to bring themselves level in the second half, with Melchie Dumornay firing straight at Mary Earps – and with just minutes remaining, Roseline Éloissaint was also denied by the England shotstopper from close range to ensure the Lionesses took a full three points from their opening fixture.

Denmark v China (1-0)

With Wang Shuang bizarrely left on the bench for China’s opening fixture, there were concerns surrounding their ability to convert chances. Those doubts proved to be well-founded, as the Steel Roses produced chance after chance – but simply couldn’t find the back of the net.

Chen Qiaozhu saw a strike from distance blazed over the woodwork, and Zhang Linyan was denied by a fantastic block from Christensen – who had another opportunity to take the lead just before half-time, but the ball bobbled away from her as she was preparing to strike.

The chances fell in Denmark’s favour throughout the second half though, as Josefine Hasbo should have opened the scoring just after the interval – but the midfielder could only place her header over the crossbar. Rikke Madsen also had a headed effort denied, with Xu Huan doing well to punch the danger away.

But it was in the dying seconds of regulation time that the rød-hvide found their breakthrough, as Amalie Vangsgaard netted the sole goal of the game, having been introduced just four minutes prior. From Pernille Harder’s corner delivery, the substitute sent the ball crashing over the line with a stunning header – ensuring Denmark took all three points in a crunch Group D encounter.

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Matchday Two

China v Haiti (1-0)

Having both registered defeats in their respective opening matches, this tie would prove to be pivotal as both China and Haiti looked to record their first points of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Haiti had been impressive against England though, and Kerly Théus was called into action once again in the opening stages of this match to nullify the threat posed by a series of Chinese crosses.

Zhang Linyan was at the hart of two further Chinese chances, as Wang Shanshan headed her corner wide of the woodwork before she skewed a free-kick wide of the post.

But the Steel Roses were to be dealt a harsh blow before the interval, as Zhang Rui was shown a straight red card for a reckless studs-up challenge on Sherly Jeudy that left the Haitian visibly distressed. Haiti sought to take use of their newfound numerical advantage, as Nérilia Mondésir latched onto Batcheba Louis’ through ball – but her effort was chalked off for offside.

China took the lead with twenty minutes remaining from the penalty spot, after Ruthny Mathurin was judged to have hauled Zhang Linyan to the ground inside the penalty area. Wang Shuang stepped up to strike and buried her effort beautifully in the bottom-left corner – and it looked as though she’d be called to the spot again mere moments later after another foul on Zhang Linyan, though VAR opted not to award a penalty on that occasion.

England v Denmark (1-0)

The Lionesses took an early lead against their Danish opponents through Lauren James, with the Chelsea star named in the starting eleven for the first time in the tournament. Having jinked towards goal, she unleashed a spectacular strike from the edge of the box that flew perfectly into the bottom corner – handing Sarina Wiegman’s side an early advantage.

It looked as though Ella Toone would add the second from distance, but the Manchester United midfielder was only able to pick out the hands of Lena Christensen. Denmark sought to make England rue that miss as Riike Madsen broke through on goal, though she spurned her effort wide of the woodwork before Jenni Thomsen fired another opportunity over the woodwork.

England were dealt a colossal blow with just ten minutes remaining in the first half, with Keira Walsh collapsing to the ground in apparent agony after sustaining a knee injury. While the Barça star mouthing ‘I’ve done my knee’ to the physio team led fans to believe she’d suffered the dreaded ACL injury, scans have since shown that that is not the case – though Sarina Wiegman is remaining tight-lipped.

The Lionesses failed to really threaten the Danish goalkeeper throughout the second half, with Amalie Vangsgaard coming closest to finding an equaliser as her headed effort struck the outside of the post. Ultimately, England were able to hold on for a hard-fought three points against tough opposition.

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Matchday Three

Haiti v Denmark (0-2)

Denmark sought to establish an early lead against Haiti, who still remained in with a chance of qualifying for the round-of-sixteen despite registering two defeats in their opening matches. Amalie Vangsgaard was the brightest spark in the Danish attack as always, but she couldn’t quite get onto the end of a cross to give the rød-hvide the upper hand.

Denmark thought they’d bagged the opener soon after as Simone Boye Sørensen turned a corner into the net, but a VAR replay found that the goalscorer had been marginally ahead of the last defender – and therefore the goal was chalked off for an offside offence.

Pernille Harder slotted home from the penalty spot with 21 minutes on the clock, after Dayana Pierre-Louis was found to have handled the ball inside the area. The ex-Chelsea forward made no mistake from the spot, calmly picking out the back of the net.

Now playing for Bayern Munich, she thought she’d completed her brace just before half-time after slamming home following a cross from the right flank. VAR would spoil the celebrations once more though, for yet another offside decision.

But despite the unrelenting waves of Haitian attacking play, it was Sanne Troelsgaard that sealed the win for Denmark. Against a tiring defence, the substitute picked out the bottom corner to confirm Denmark’s participation in the round-of-sixteen.

China v England (1-6)

Despite limping to slender wins in both of their opening matches, and losing Keira Walsh for the foreseeable future through a knee injury, England were keen to right their wrongs in this final group stage fixture. It merely took minutes for the Lionesses to open the scoring, as Alessia Russo linked up well with Lauren James before finishing low to the goalkeeper’s right – putting England on course to top the group.

Just as the Chinese began to gain a foothold on the match, England delivered a killer blow to double their lead. Millie Bright initiated the counterattack, with Lauren James then playing Lauren Hemp through on goal – and neat buildup play saw the Manchester City star find the back of the net.

Moments before half-time, Lauren James completed her brace with a stunning strike from the edge of the box. Having been left unmarked during a free-kick delivery, the Chelsea forward was bound to find the back of the net and seal England’s participation in the round-of-sixteen.

But China found a way to claw themselves back into contention, after a ‘potential handball’ offence saw the Steel Roses awarded a chance from twelve yards. A lengthy VAR review found that Lucy Bronze may have handled the ball on the line, and Wang Shuang took full advantage of the opportunity – rolling an effort down the centre of the goal as Mary Earps dived left.

Lauren James netted her second less than ten minutes later, latching onto the end of Jess Carter’s cross with a superb volley that nullified any fight still left within Chinese bellies. The goalscoring didn’t stop there though, as a mistake from Zhu Yu left Chloe Kelly with an open goal to slot home into – and the Manchester City striker did just that.

The Lionesses’ sixth goal of the match came through Rachel Daly, after a flurry of crosses ultimately saw the ball fall for the WSL’s top goalscorer. Her volley was precise, slamming home from close range to wrap up a comprehensive England victory.

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The Standings

Sarina Wiegman’s England top Group D after three wins. Despite an injury to Keira Walsh, the latest performance against China is arguably the strongest we’ve seen from the Lionesses since the infamous European Championships win at Wembley last year – and if they can continue to perform like that, the World Cup trophy could well be heading back home. They’ve been rewarded with a round-of-sixteen tie against Nigeria.

Denmark also make it through, with six points enough to earn a round-of-sixteen tie against Australia. The rød-hvilde’s only defeat of the tournament thus far came against England, with comfortable wins against China and Haiti seeing them progress.

Three points for China sees them bow out of the FIFA Women’s World Cup at the group stage, with a hefty defeat to England being the final nail in their coffin. Still, the Steel Roses are almost part of the furniture at these tournaments now – and there’s no doubt we’ll see them return in 2027.

In their debut campaign at the Women’s World Cup, Haiti failed to win – or even score a goal for that matter. Still though, there is plenty to be proud of, as they conceded just four goals and performed admirably against England in their opening match.