Mark Sampson promised his England team would offer more attacking threat against Mexico, he kept his word. El Tricolor played an extremely astute tactical battle, more effective than the one against Colombia.
It was not enough though as England showed their class winning two goals to one. Sampson’s side were finally up and running and roaring into life at the World Cup.
Reacting positively after the 1-0 loss to France, Sampson rung a number of changes. Showing confidence in World Cup debutant Fran Kirby he handed the Reading striker her first start. Kirby seized upon it and paid Sampson in kind with a confident performance, tremendous skill, poise and an opening goal that would be a contender for goal of the tournament.
Midfielder Karen Carney then put a degree of gloss onto the England performance making it two-nil with a rare headed goal. In every sense, compared to the disappointment of the fixture against France, this was a much more satisfying performance from England.
Defensively compact and organised – Claire Rafferty showed great strength, growing in stature as the minutes wore on, Steph Houghton leading by captain’s example producing a solid display, Lucy Bronze marshalling and controlling the game creating chances; It was more like the England we expected, the tactics worked.
Mexico did offer some resistance making it harder for England to breakdown. Their persistence almost paid off, if not for the trickery of Kirby. In truth, Leonardo Cuéllar and the Mexican team must not be dejected by the loss but rather take heart from their own performance.
What is worrying for England is the confidence of Enolia Aluko. Hitting the bar in the first half and then failing to convert chance after chance, her frustrations at not finding the back of the net grew, her body language spoke volumes.
Aluko has the ability to carve open defences and being ruthless in front of goal, but she must refocus – on Wednesday, the form of Colombian goalkeeper Sandra Sepúlveda will mean that the England striker will have to be on the top of her game.
Fabián Taborda’s team present a very real tactical headache for Sampson. Las Cafeteras are a side growing in belief they can not only qualify for the knockout stages, but go even further. Their sensational two-nil win against tournament dark horses France is a stark warning to England. Everyone can beat each other, reputations mean nothing.
France were tactically out-manoeuvred against them. They ran out of ideas and paid the price, as Columbia soaked up pressure, taking their chances when presented to them. It underlined in every respect how England perhaps should have gone about attacking Les Bleues themselves.
It’s not a simple case of the ‘Lionesses’ biding their time, holding onto the ball probing looking for openings – England will need to strike first, in order to truly test the South American’s resolve and character. Colombia will punish England as the did against the French if they can’t break through Las Cafeteras defensive lines.
Striker Lady Andrade has shown composure and pace, England need to be wary of it. Notwithstanding the physicality of the South Americans, prone to hefty challenges, England must be wary of not being sucked into matching that element of their oppositions play.
Added to the complexities, Colombian confidence is sky high before Wednesday night’s game, as midfielder Yoreli Rincon was odds to point out before facing France.
I think we are the power in South America. We’re afraid of no-one. We respect the history of these big teams but we’ve come with just one goal which is for us also to write our page in history. We don’t fear their history or their players.
For periods of the game, England will find Colombian lines hard to breach. At those pivotal moments they must keep their discipline and mental resilience. France vastly underestimated the strength of Colombian resolve, Sampson and his Lionesses must not make the same mistake.
f Karen Carney’s insight into the attitude in the England dressing room is anything to go by, there will be no half measures no lack of appreciation for the Colombians.
We are really excited to play Colombia. We are all supporting each other and are all behind each other as we will be against Colombia. We have to pay them respect. The competition is fantastic, and anyone can beat anyone on any given day.
History books give us lessons on British pioneers who have used Montreal as a staging post to further national ambitions. On Wednesday night England must treat the Olympic Stadium as a bastion of dominance, a staging post to further enrich their nation’s footballing future.