As the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 enters its second week, the Lionesses face Denmark in their crucial second Group D clash in Sydney on Friday.
On the heels of a nervy, underwhelming 1-0 opening win against Haiti, England’s women are under pressure.
Whilst the European champions are far from in peril, hosts Australia’s shock defeat to Nigeria, may have left Sarina Wiegman a little apprehensive.
Can England inject life into their campaign or could the Danes spring a second upset in 24 hours?
A nation expects
For the Lionesses, nothing less than a win against the Danes will do.
With the likes of Brazil, Spain and Germany so far romping – even if the US women were held by the Dutch – England now expects.
Yet, a team who scored 22 goals en-route to their famous Wembley win almost a year to the day and one of the big fancies, seem burdened.
Ready for matchday! 😤 pic.twitter.com/p214WE3KLV
— Lionesses (@Lionesses) July 27, 2023
Failing to score from open play against a side ranked 53 in the world, Saturday felt more like an England men’s World Cup performance of old.
Indeed, the Lionesses could be in a more perilous position, had Mary Earps not made a smart save late on against the Haitians.
Against Denmark, the eyes of expectation are on the Lionesses; Wiegman knows it.
The Daly puzzler
Before facing the Caribbean nation, many a column inch was devoted to how England would set up in attack.
Would the in-form converted left-back goal machine, Rachel Daly start up top?
Might England’s golden girl Alessia Russo lead the line, with former super sub Ella Toone in support?
It proved the latter, but the Lionesses’ roar was somewhat muffled.
After Daly came on with 15 minutes to play for Russo, the Aston Villa forward was unable to get a foothold.
Spared sizeable opening day blushes via Georgia Stanway‘s spot-kick, critics will argue that a result was all that mattered.
Nevertheless, the Haiti wins left to be desired; England must stand up here and Daly could be the answer.
Red and White peril
Denmark coach Lars Sondergaard knows just how important Friday’s game is.
“We hope we can spring a surprise”
The words of an optimist?
Or, as many familiar faces meet up on the pitch, does the 64-year-old veteran hold genuine hopes of a seismic upset?
With both sides locked on three points, their meeting at the Sydney Football Stadium will likely determine the group winners.
The Danes, themselves needed a 90th-minute Amalie Vangsgaard effort to beat China in Perth.
No.13 in the world, The Red and White are by some stretch the underdogs in the Australian capital, but will be no pushover.
Though England have won both previous encounters, as documented, many of Denmark’s squad play in the WSL.
Five started against the Chinese, with West Ham livewire Emma Snerle waiting in the wings.
With the experience head of skipper Pernille Harder on hand, the Bayern forward scored against England in 2017.
Make no mistake, Denmark will be happy to put domestic alliances aside and make things very uncomfortable.
Danes a huge price
On the face of it, England should have more than enough to notch a second win.
But this is not the same side from last year.
Much like the Azzurri when they were crowned European kings, the Lionesses look shackled.
Huge favourites for the win at 1/2 across the board, if, however, England labour once more, the Danish price could shorten as the game evolves.
Therefore, as unlikely as it sounds, a Denmark win at 6/1 with Betfred represents a good deal of value.
Even the draw at 3/1 with 888sport does not lack merit.