16 mins: Houghton has an optimistic shot from a free-kick a good 30 yards from goal, which soars way over the bar.
14 mins: Gentile slides in on Bronze, giving away a free-kick. “Is the ‘21st Club’ statistician suggesting that Luton Town would have an 11% chance of beating Barcelona?” asks Mac Millings. “I ask purely as an interested observer, and certainly not as a highly amused Watford supporter.”
13 mins: There is always an English player in space on the wing. They build up through midfield, with Mead hanging around on her own on the left. Eventually however they go right to Bronze, whose cross finds Scott, whose header is too close to Correa.
10 mins: Argentina win a free-kick on the halfway line and take a ludicrous amount of time over getting the ball into position and taking it. England point a bit and look grumpy.
8 mins: Another run from Mead, who this time beats Sachs for pace, bursts into the area and then completely miskicks when she attempts to centre, and both she and the ball end up out of play.
7 mins: An excellent long pass from Moore finds Mead on the left, who turns Sachs, turns her again, and then loses the ball as she keeps trying to beat her without ever really doing anything else.
3 mins: Another Parris run and cross. Stabile hasn’t handled her at all well so far, and looks set for a difficult evening at left-back.
1 min: England, wearing a very fine shade of dark red, get the game started and within 30 seconds Parris crosses from the right and Bronze flings herself at the ball at the near post, collides with Barroso and the ball hits her in the face and rolls wide.
Halfway through the Argentinian anthem the mascots decide that it’s probably finished and run away.
“That sure is a luxurious spread in the England dressing room. (Two varieties of fizzy energy drink?!) I can’t imagine that the Argentina one is nearly as well-stocked. It’s clearly the Le Havres versus the Le Havre-nots,” writes Peter Oh, who adds: “Given the glaring gap in resources and quality between these two sides, are you sure Neville didn’t actually say ‘We’re under no illusions that it’s going to be a tough game’?”
I thought that was an important comma.
The teams are out and ready for the anthems. Meanwhile, a statistician writes:
Argentina are expected to park the proverbial bus, much as they did against Japan in their opening game, when they had 39% of possession, performed 28 tackles to Japan’s 14, did 35 clearances to Japan’s 10, completed 166 passes to Japan’s 583, and still drew 0-0 (Japan only had three shots on target).
Here are Phil Neville’s pre-match ponderings:
We wanted to freshen it up a little bit. We’ve freshened it up down the side, and brought in players who are in good form and fit the profile of the game. I thought they were fantastic against Japan. We’ll have to break down a resolute, determined, spirited team who have got some good players up front as well. We’re under no illusions, it’s going to be a tough game.
Just half an hour to go until kick-off. Here’s some more pre-match reading for you:
England make four changes to the team that beat Scotland 2-1 on Sunday. Ellen White, who scored in that game, is replaced by Jodie Taylor and goalkeeper Karen Bardsley is bumped out while Carly Telford comes in. The other changes see Jade Moore and Abbie McManus replace Keira Walsh and Millie Bright.
A peek inside the England dressing-room. Looks like a well-stocked table, that.
England: Telford, Bronze, Houghton, McManus, Greenwood, Mead, Moore, Scott, Kirby, Taylor, Parris. Subs: Bardsley, Walsh, Bright, Stokes, Williamson, Daly, White, Stanway, Carney, Staniforth, Duggan, Earps.
Argentina: Correa, Sachs, Barroso, Cometti, Stabile, Bravo, Mayorga, Benitez, Banini, Bonsegundo, Jaimes. Subs: Santana, Oviedo, Garton, Gomez, Potassa, Coronel, Chavez, Larroquette, Ippolito, Juncos, Menendez, Pereyra.
Referee: Qin Liang (China).
Further reading while we wait for the teams: today’s Fiver is entirely this-game-centric:
England and Argentina in the World Cup. It’s a fixture heavy with history – 1966, 1998, 2002 – but the women have only played once before, at the 2007 World Cup, when the Lionesses won 6-1. Another one-sided game might be anticipated – Argentina are ranked 37th in the world by Fifa while England sit third, and Argentina only qualified thanks to an admittedly resounding play-off win against Panama – but Argentina drew 0-0 with seventh-placed Japan in their first game and their coach, Carlos Borrello, has declared that the result “has really changed the dynamic” within their squad. “If we can even get one point, or even three, it would be welcome,” he says of this game. “We came to try. England is a great team, we know this. But we also have things up our sleeve, we have passion, and we are going to give it our all.”
“I think everyone in this tournament is here on merit and we definitely do not underestimate any team,” the England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley said. “I think we’re very much prepared for anything that could happen. We have to treat it as if we are going to play a top nation. We have to be extremely respectful of what could potentially happen.”
If England win tonight they will secure qualification from Group D with a game to spare, though that would not mean that they can relax: Japan beat Scotland in Rennes earlier today, meaning that the identity of the group winners, who have a handy draw in the round of 16 against one of the third-placed sides (while the runners-up will play the winners of Group E, which features two of Fifa’s top-eight teams, Canada and Vivianne Miedema’s Netherlands) would be decided in the final fixture.
Anyway, and most importantly, welcome. Now read this: