by Sylvain Jamet

England Women lost their final FIFA WWC 2015 warm-up game to host nation Canada in a tight 1-0 defeat.

It was always going to be a tight game between those two teams who are first and foremost set-up to defend well and being difficult to beat. After all, the previous last four games had resulted in four wins with three of them being 1-0 and the other one 2-0.

Mark Sampson went for an experimental 11 set-up in a 4-4-2 with a flat midfield four. I certainly do not expect England to be playing with that personnel come the 9th June for their opener against France. He selected: Bardsley, Bronze, Houghton (cap,) Stoney, Rafferty, Duggan, Chapman, Scott, Carney, Sanderson, White.

It is fair to say it was a  good defensive set up with two banks of four players well in place and England certainly denied Canada clear goal scoring opportunities through the game. With a central pairing of Chapman Scott full of strength and power and both wingers working very hard, this was a good show of intent that any team wanting to beat England during the tournament, will have to be at their best attacking wise.

Canada’s goal came against the run of play with the home team not having created much. In the 23rd minute, Belanger went up on the right and passed it towards Schmidt just outside the penalty area. Bronze was not marking tight enough and Schmidt unleashed a rocket that ended up in the top corner of Bardsley for 1-0 and the only goal of the game.

What the game showed us is that 4-4-2 structure was very rigid and did not work really well in term of attacking play. Creativity was limited to Carney’s run, Duggan was not very efficient on the right wing, a role that does not seem to suit her being so far from the goal. Sanderson and White were starved of quality balls as Canada ‘s defensive system is as robust as the English one. We did not see enough overlapping by the full backs Bronze and Rafferty and it was disappointing not to see any centre back come into the attacking phase build up from the back and create defensive uncertainty to the opposition by joining the attack with a couple of penetrating runs.

Basically having four players only to attack a well structured defence does not work unless someone works a bit of magic or the opposition makes a big mistake. I don’t think a team should rely on that kind of event to win a game at the highest tournament level.

The coach made a triple substitution on the 61st minute that worked very well moving into a more fluid system. Form player Greenwood came on at left back offering a lot attacking wise. Sanderson and White were withdrawn for Aluko and Williams.  Aluko going up top with Duggan in behind her. This move freed up midfield movement and allow more forward pushing while at the same time keeping the same defensive security with players alternating rotation in front of the back four.

About ten minutes later Kirby a forward replaced a defensive midfield Chapman. The Reading player went on the left wing a bit far from the goal to do enough damages though but certainly helped creating space on the left wing where Greenwood used her excellent crossing ability.

Finally  Moore came on in defensive midfield position with seven minutes to go replacing her club teammate Carney, moving into a 4-1-3-2 attacking system that let the 3 midfields go forward and support the front two players.

It was obviously a warm up game, the players are 10 days away from their first game so not sharp enough as expected. England will have a behind closed door game where the real starting 11 will be played but this game still gave us a lot of information on players form, formation and set pieces.

On the Arsenal contingent, three of them were unused Alex Scott who might have lost her starting place to Bronze, Jordan Nobbs who will be definitely a starter at the world Cup and Siobhan Chamberlain who is likely to sit on the bench during the tournament. Casey Stoney and Lianne Sanderson started the game, with Lianne Subbed at the hour mark. I don’t expect those two to start against France if the 23 players are all fit to play.

England will certainly have to be at their best offensively and defensively if they want to beat France on the 9th June in Moncton.