England lose World Cup opener

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Published: Tuesday 9th June 2015 by The News Editor

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England again failed to beat France on the big stage as Mark Sampson’s side suffered a 1-0 defeat in their Women’s World Cup opener in Moncton.

After a penalty shoot-out defeat in the 2011 World Cup quarter-finals, and a 3-0 hiding at Euro 2013, this was a chance for England to take revenge but Eugenie Le Sommer’s fierce 29th-minute strike made the difference.

A conservative game plan from 32-year-old head coach Sampson, who wanted England to contain France and hit on the break, might have brought reward as the Lionesses head coach sent on attacking reinforcements to test tiring opponents.

Yet England found the team ranked third in the world just too good as Sampson’s women began their Group F campaign on a losing note.

There might have been a different end story had referee Thalia Mitsi spotted an apparently intentional elbow from Camille Abily on Laura Bassett with 20 minutes to go.

Despite the loss England still stand a strong chance of reaching the last 16. Rated the world’s sixth best team by FIFA, in their remaining group games they face 25th-ranked Mexico on Saturday and 28th-ranked Colombia next Wednesday, and would expect to beat both.

Many supporters were still outside the Moncton Stadium at kick-off time, with some expressing annoyance on social media that the queues were slow to move.

The artificial pitch looked to cause England no trouble, but France posed them plenty, particularly in the first half.

England were largely reliant on Eni Aluko leading the attack by herself in the early stages. Sampson had warned ahead of the game that France possessed great individual ability and England duly looked to spoil, playing a defender in Lucy Bronze on the left wing.

Le Sommer had seen a shot deflected wide before her big moment arrived.

England were ponderous in midfield and Gaetane Thiney stepped in to dispossess Katie Chapman before letting strike partner Le Sommer take over, with the reward coming in a powerful shot from 25 yards that soared high into the right corner.

Karen Bardsley leapt across to get fingers to the ball but the England goalkeeper could not prevent Le Sommer’s 45th international strike.

Necib swept a shot into the side-netting as France sought to double their lead before half-time, before Chapman floated an effort wide at the other end, with goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi grounded.

Aluko was too isolated though, left to run the channels with support arriving late, if at all, and while she was a willing runner it looked a frustrating role.

Sampson made no changes at the break, and inside a minute was grateful that Bardsley positioned herself well to gather a 20-yard effort from Le Sommer.

Jill Scott had England’s best effort of the first hour from a corner, when Aluko’s smart delivery picked out the midfielder. On the turn, Manchester City player Scott sent a half-volley into Bouhaddi’s grateful arms, the goalkeeper having unnecessarily given away the flag kick.

Toni Duggan, another from Manchester City, came on for Ellen White in the 60th minute to support Aluko as England went from 4-5-1 to 4-4-2.

Chapman was booked for a trip, before France’s Abily might have seen red after leading with her elbow on centre-back Bassett.

England had a third forward on the pitch after introducing 21-year-old Fran Kirby off the bench and were putting France under greater pressure, but an equaliser would not come, Aluko thrashing over the bar from long range in stoppage time.

Published: Tuesday 9th June 2015 by The News Editor

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