England have not beaten France since 1974 and hopefully this will carry on for many years to come. They are currently ranked in fifth place in the FIFA World Ranking and could up to the third place if they perform well at the SheBelieves Cup.
Mark Sampson has taken a 23 players squad with 3 goalkeepers, 9 defenders, 5 midfielders and 6 forwards. England have recently switched to a back three system, after using mainly a back four in the previous years. They play in a 5-3-1-1 system that is quite defensive as we have seen in the friendly last year in Doncaster.
It is a solid defensive platform, but it also a set-up that does not always often allow the lone centre-forward to get support either from a second forward or from the attacking midfielder.
The goalkeeping hierarchy is quite clear with Bardsley the first choice. This is something as puzzling as Bouhaddi being the number one for France as they have similar problems. But both players have been backed up by many goalkeeping coaches and managers, so they are obviously doing things right.
The regular back three has been Bronze, Houghton and Potter but Potter is injured and is not available. She is replaced in the squad by Bonner. It will be interesting to see if a ball passing centre back comes in for her in the starting 11, or more physical defenders like Bassett or Bright.
There are three wing-backs in Alex Scott, Stokes and Daly who has been used as a forward in previous games, but was converted to defender with the England youth teams. Considering the energy level needed to play in that position, it would not be a surprise to see Bronze play at right-wing back during the tournament.
In midfield there are five players for three places, two defensive midfielder Fara Williams and Moore, two number 8 Jill Scott and Nobbs and one playmaker Christiansen. Carney is also a playmaker but named as a forward in the list.
In attack there are three centre forwards, Taylor, Rachel Williams and White. Three quick and powerful battering ram, who can go past defender with power and pace. This is a clear indication that England will play on the break and try to find space behind the opposition’s defence.
Those three players are compliments by versatile players in Carney, Parris and Dugan who can play anywhere in the front line, in a two or three players system.
England’s game plan is to neutralise the opposition’s strength first and then attack their weaknesses whenever they can. They have hard working and disciplined players, who will fit into that plan and make a defensive fortress. The downside of course is attacking is then restricted to set pieces and the odd counter-attack.
Mark Sampson has also the option to press a little bit higher on the pitch. It is a tactic that they do not use for long stretches of the game, but they certainly can create chances from the opposition turnovers in their defensive or middle third.
England are definitely a team that are hard to beat and if they can score first, they will be certainly difficult to break down. They are a team with more power than creativity, but they have ability and players to play a more possession based attacking football, if the coaches allow them to play that way.
Sylvain Jamet Lesfeminines.fr