The second round of matches at the women’s World Cup are underway and there is a potentially decisive fixture taking place in Group D on Friday as England entertain Denmark.
Having won the European Championships last summer, big things are expected of England on their journey Down Under and they will be under pressure to live up to that billing against the Danes.
However, an underwhelming performance in their 1-0 win over minnows Haiti in their curtain-raiser has tempered enthusiasm about their World Cup prospects and a response is required.
That said, Sarina Wiegman’s side should still be targeting maximum points against a Denmark outfit that were also made to work hard in their opening clash with China, who were undone in the 89th-minute by Amalie Vangsgaard
England appear to be missing a focal point to their attack in the absence of sidelined star striker Beth Mead, who claimed the Golden Boot at Euro 2022.
With Mead, Leah Williamson and Fran Kirby out of action, there is no doubting that this is a weaker squad than the one that was crowned European champions, but they should still have enough in reserve to take care of Denmark.
Georgia Stanway’s first half penalty awarded England with victory over Haiti and it should have been more convincing given the fact they enjoyed 75 per-cent possession and had 21 shots, 11 of which were on target.
But the Lionesses were wasteful without Mead, something that could come back to haunt them against stronger opposition in the latter stages of the competition.
Denmark evidently provide a sterner test than Haiti but they, too, put up a lethargic display in their 1-0 win over China, a contest that could have gone either way until Vangsgaard pounced late.
That was, however, the seventh time in Denmark’s last eight internationals in which under 2.5 goal backers were rewarded, and manager Lars Sondergaard will know his side can’t match England for quality.
So the Danes will attempt to stay disciplined defensively, aiming to soak up the pressure and utilise their talent on the counter-attack.
But England have excellent shape and organisation under Wiegman, who has witnessed her team lose only once in their last 33 internationals.
Given what is at stake plus England’s recent dip in attacking form, defences may dominate, but one goal could be enough for the Lionesses to land the spoils.
The Danes lost 2-0 to a strong Spain side in their final friendly encounter before the World Cup, which means four of their last five reverses have been by either a 1-0 or 2-0 scoreline.