Women's World Cup: England v France pre-match analysis

Women's World Cup 2011

Venue:
Leverkusen Stadium, Germany
Date:
Saturday, 9 July
Kick-off:
1650 BST
Coverage:
Watch live on BBC Two and BBC Sport website (UK only) from 1650 BST; listen on BBC Radio 5 live; final live on BBC3
England's Ellen White scores World Cup wonder goal

England face France in the last eight of the World Cup in Leverkusen on Saturday. Both teams have shown flashes of brilliance in the group stages, but who holds the advantage?

France are seventh in the Fifa rankings, three places above England, and include a number of players from top European side Lyon.

On paper France may have the upper hand, but England carry momentum from the 2-0 win over Japan that secured Hope Powell's side top spot in Group B and a place in the last eight.

Les Bleus, meanwhile, had a torrid time in their final group game, losing 4-2 to reigning champions Germany.

After a hard-fought victory over Nigeria and a 4-0 thrashing of Canada, Germany proved a test too great for the French, who finished runners-up in Group A.

England have not played France since goals from Karen Carney and Casey Stoney helped them to twice come from behind to draw 2-2 in the 2009 Cyprus Cup.

"I don't think there's anything to fear anymore," said BBC Sport pundit and England forward Sue Smith.

"In the past England have feared teams like Germany, Japan, France and other teams ranked above us, but we don't do that anymore.

"Beating America and Sweden before the World Cup gave the team a mental boost. They need to take confidence from the Japan game and play as they did. "

ENGLAND'S JOURNEY SO FAR

A laboured start to the tournament saw the Lionesses carve out a 1-1 draw against Mexico, before going 1-0 down in their second game to New Zealand, a side striving to earn its first point at a World Cup.

Powell's half-time team talk injected energy and vigour into her players and they emerged for the second half as a side able to convert their chances.

Goals from Jill Scott and Jess Clarke capped off a solid second-half performance and sealed a 2-1 win, England's first victory of the tournament.

That success meant a draw against a well-organised Japan side would guarantee Powell's side a place in the quarter-finals, while a victory would see them progress as group winners.

A well-executed game plan and superbly taken goals by World Cup debutant Ellen White and Rachel Yankey secured an impressive 2-0 success and a quarter-final against the French.

SQUAD ROTATION

England have improved with every game and the squad's strength in depth has been demonstrated by the fact that their five goals have come from five different players.

Of the players that have occupied the bench in England's three group games, more than half have seen action, with two scoring goals. Powell's substitutions could therefore be key to success against the French.

Within the squad of 21 are five World Cup debutants all itching to make their mark on the world's biggest footballing stage.

One of those is 21-year-old central defender Sophie Bradley, who looked at ease filling the shoes of captain Faye White against Japan.

Also enjoying a first senior international tournament are Clarke and White, who have both made their mark by scoring important goals for England.

KEY BATTLE: CASEY STONEY V ELODIE THOMIS

Elodie Thomis is a key player in France's attack. The Lyon centre forward was on the scoresheet the last time they met England and also found the net in the 4-0 win over Canada.

The 24-year-old raced past the Canadian defence to coolly round the keeper and slot home.

Stoney, and whoever partners her at the back, will need to be constantly aware of Thomis' movements. England's defence are unlikely to catch her once she has gone.

Stoney will not want to be forced into any last-ditch tackles as another yellow card will rule the Lincoln Ladies defender out of the semi-final should England progress.

"I played against France in the Cyprus Cup in 2009 and Thomis can cause problems with her pace," said Smith.

"But whoever plays in the centre of defence between Stoney, Faye White and Bradley for England will know how to deal with that. They're used to it in the Women's Super League."

SEEING RED

France had goalkeeper Berangere Sapowicz red carded in their last game against Germany for a foul inside the penalty box.

Sapowicz will now miss the clash with England so the Lionesses should look to test stand-in goalie Celine Deville early on to exploit any nerves.

"France not having their first-choice keeper will be a massive blow," said Smith.

"I'm sure they've got a good replacement but it might give them a knock mentally."

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