Mary Earps’s rescue reveals England’s defense weakness



The Lionesses were given a fright by Haiti in their World Cup opener, and they need to progress before taking on the more formidable test of Denmark

After extensive anticipation, England finally entered the World Cup stage in Brisbane, but their defensive performance was surprisingly feeble. Despite the vital role their defense played in their success during the previous summer’s Euros, they seemed susceptible and unorganized against the swift and determined Haiti team, who fearlessly challenged the European champions.

The fitness of the Lionesses’ backline became a significant worry when Sarina Wiegman declared Millie Bright fit just a little over 24 hours before the match. This marked Bright’s first full 90 minutes of competitive football since sustaining a knee injury in March. Even though she had some playing time in a closed-door match against Canada last week, it was evident that she was still shaking off the rust.

Bright, renowned for her combative style and exceptional distribution, showed signs of being slightly off her game, particularly in the first half. Her inaccurate passes and failed challenges provided opportunities for Haiti to capitalize on swift counterattacks.

The uncertainty surrounding Bright’s defensive partner raised additional concerns, eventually leading to Jess Carter taking on the center-back position alongside her Chelsea teammate. Despite facing challenges during transitions, Coach Wiegman acknowledged the importance of improving ball control and team connectivity.

Haiti’s proficiency in pressurizing England and exploiting long balls raised alarm, particularly due to the talented forward, Melchie Dumornay, who skillfully exploited these weaknesses. Haiti’s manager, Nicolas Délepine, praised Dumornay’s extraordinary abilities while recognizing the potential for further improvement.

Lucy Bronze’s tendency to push forward often left gaps behind the defense, which Dumornay skillfully exploited, causing difficulties with her persistent and accurate deliveries. The 19-year-old showcased impressive acrobatic abilities, particularly in the first half, and later in the game, she tested Mary Earps with a powerful and precisely aimed shot, resulting in a remarkable save. Once again, the England goalkeeper delivered an outstanding performance, facing more challenges than expected.

Together with Kerly Théus, the opposing goalkeeper, she pulled off a series of world-class saves. Georgia Stanway, who scored the goal, praised her by saying, “That’s why she’s ranked No. 1, that’s why she’s FIFA’s Best. Moments like that show why she keeps us in the game and secures those three points. She’s the best for a reason.” Given the tense circumstances, the outcome was always going to hinge on a mistake or a narrow margin.

Despite chaos and three VAR checks in the first half, England managed to break through with a penalty in the 29th minute. Stanway, composed under pressure, successfully converted it, even after having to take it twice. As they prepare to face Denmark, the team is aware of the need for improvement in all aspects during training. Denmark will present a tougher challenge with more attacking options, and the Lionesses cannot afford to repeat their defensive mistakes.


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