England vs. France
With the group stage behind us the focus is now on the Quarterfinals where from this point on it’s “win or go home”. This one is an all-European meeting, as England battle France at the BayArena in Leverkusen, Germany.
England clinched top spot in Group B with a big 2-0 win over Japan combined with Mexico collapsing in the final minutes against New Zealand and drawing 2-2. Coach Hope Powell made some interesting changes in that match, but at the end of the day it was the class of rising stars Ellen White and Rachel Yankey that sealed the deal. However this team needs their main superstar Kelly Smith to show up and produce, she hasn’t been awful but by the same token hasn’t had the desired impact that her skill level and reputation demands and she clearly is frustrated about it. Other then Kelly Smith the key players for this team has to be Faye White and Karen Carney, White has been carrying an injury throughout the tournament and has been relegated to the bench but England need their captain and rock in central defense against this explosive French attack. Carney’s play in the midfield is also important, she is the main link between the defense and attack and will be the deep laying playmaker for the likes of Smith, Yankey, Eniola Aluko and Jill Scott.
As for France, they gave Germany a scare in their final group match but ultimately ended the group as runners up losing by a 4-2 score line. This French side has proven to be a dangerous prospect though, their attacking talent in combination with their strength in midfield gives them the ability to dominate possession and work the ball through their main playmaker Louisa Necib. All successful attacks go through her and it’s her primary objective to put forwards Marie-Laure Delie and Gaëtane Thiney in the proper positions to score goals. Where this team needs to key in on is defense in the wide positions, the likes of Sonia Bompastor and Laure Lepailleur will be up against what is England’s strength and where they like to have the ball the most. Coach Bruno Bini will also want to keep Kelly Smith frustrated and off her game, man marking her with veteran midfielder Sandrine Soubeyrand would be a smart option.
I’m going with France in this match, even though England showed up when it counted against Japan they gave up a lot of scoring opportunities. In a knockout situation I go with the team that has the overwhelming advantage in a certain area, and the French midfield has proven to be amongst the best in the tournament. Take France plus the 120 to advance.
France +120 England