England booked their place in the World Cup knockout stages after beating a resolute Argentina thanks to Jodie Taylor’s first goal in 14 months.
Phil Neville’s side looked as though they would pay for Nikita Parris’ missed first-half penalty, which was saved by the brilliant Vanina Correa after Alex Greenwood was tripped.
The Argentine goalkeeper also denied Beth Mead, Parris and Taylor, but had no chance in stopping Euro 2017’s golden boot winner, as she tapped in Mead’s low cross after 61 minutes.
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The victory for England, who are ranked third in the world – 34 places above Argentina – means they qualify for the second round and can seal top spot in Group D with a point against Japan in their final game on Wednesday.
In front of a crowd of 20,294 in the industrial city of Le Havre, it was also the first time England have won their first two World Cup matches.
But they were made to battle for it against a determined Argentina, who won their first ever World Cup point in their opening draw with 2015 champions Japan and have had to overcome hardships in the last few years.
Taylor comes to England’s rescue again
Neville said that he was prepared for a game which would evoke the footballing “history and rivalry” between the two countries, and expected Argentina to defend with vigour and passion.
So it was no surprise that England started as if they were eager to break their resistance early on, but were often let down by a poor final ball.
Mead was guilty of that on several occasions, yet she and Greenwood were the source of many England attacks down the left. That was in contrast to the Lionessess’ opening game, when Parris and Lucy Bronze thrived down the right.
Despite those early lapses, it was Mead who twice broke Argentina’s resistance. The Arsenal winger played in Greenwood before she was tripped by Ruth Bravo, leading to Parris’s spot-kick.
The England winger, who had buried a penalty against Scotland in England’s opening game, this time went the other way and struck it with less venom, allowing Correa to tip it on to the post.
The Argentine goalkeeper also stuck out a leg to deny Mead before the break, and denied Parris again after the newly-signed Lyon forward struck a booming shot after a free-kick was cleared.
As the game reached the hour mark, it seemed as if Correa’s goal was impenetrable, but the latter of two flowing moves led to Taylor’s goal and the 33-year-old, who had not scored since a World Cup qualifier in April 2018 – or in 363 minutes of football – celebrated her 18th England goal with enthusiasm.
Having scored five times at Euro 2017 where England reached the semi-finals and once at the 2015 World Cup, where England finished third, she once again showed she has an appetite for the big occasion, which may prove crucial as England seek to win their first major tournament.
Argentina show their ‘rebel spirit’
Argentina, who did not have a team for two years between 2015 and 2017 after a lack of backing from their federation, are appearing in their first World Cup for 12 years.
Back in 2007 they lost 6-1 to England, but they are a far more competitive outfit now, despite not enjoying the salaries or support of their opponents, who Neville described as being “blessed”.
That gulf in resources was not matched on the pitch, however, as Carlos Borrello’s well-drilled side got players behind the ball and defended stoutly with the kind of “rebel spirit” that their manager had spoken of prior to the game.
That was summed up by Correa, who palmed Parris’ penalty onto the post after 28 minutes, and then superbly stopped Mead’s effort before making her best save to deny Parris again.
Argentina’s first effort on goal was after 21 minutes, an overhit free-kick which Carly Telford, making her debut World Cup appearance at the age of 31, easily gathered.
They also only had 25% possession, yet forward Sole Jaimes and number 10 Estefania Banini caused occasional problems for the England defence, and the team’s robust style certainly ruffled some of the England players.
Neville’s England, however, will be pleased to come through a tough test again, and give themselves a chance to rotate their squad for the final group game against Japan, who earlier beat Scotland 2-1 to sit second in the group on four points.
Player of the match – Vanina Correa (Argentina)
England’s potential route
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If England win the group, they take on the best third-placed side from either Group B, E or F (currently China, Cameroon or Chile).
A quarter-final in Le Havre would be next in store against the winner of a match between the runners-up of Group A and Group C (currently Norway and Australia).
If the Lionesses finish runners-up in the group, they take on the winner of Group E which is likely to be Canada or the Netherlands in Rennes.
A quarter-final in Valenciennes would follow against either the winner of Group C (Brazil, Italy or Australia) or the best third-placed team from Groups A (Norway/Nigeria), B (Spain/China) or F (likely Chile).
Scott sets England record – the stats
- England have won seven of their last eight Women’s World Cup games (W7 D0 L1), with all those of wins coming by a one-goal margin.
- England have now qualified for the knockout stages of the Women’s World Cup in each of their five appearances (1995, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019).
- Argentina remain winless in all eight of their Women’s World Cup matches (W0 D1 L7), failing to score in six of those.
- Taylor scored her second Women’s World Cup goal and her first goal in any competition for England since April 2018, when she scored against Bosnia and Herzegovina in a World Cup qualifier.
- Argentina had just two shots, a joint-low in a 2019 Women’s World Cup match (also two for Thailand v USA); they also managed just one touch in the opposition box, the fewest of any team in a match at this tournament.
- England started a Women’s World Cup game without goalkeeper Karen Bardsley for the first time in the last three tournaments – Carly Telford made her World Cup debut.
- This was Jill Scott’s 14th start at the Women’s World Cup, the most by an England player in the competition – this game took her one clear of Fara Williams’ tally of 13 between 2007 and 2015.