The quarterfinals of the 2019 Women’s World Cup get underway Thursday with an all-European matchup between Norway and England. The English are the betting favorites with a moneyline of -102. But Norway has decent odds for an underdog at +263.
The Norwegians pulled off a mild surprise in the Round of 16, knocking off Australia, albeit needing penalty kicks to do it. Prior to that, they looked convincing in wins over Nigeria and South Korea during the group stage despite dropping a heartbreaker to France.
As for England, the Three Lionesses have been victorious in all four games during the World Cup. They’ve conceded only one goal in those four games, but it’s hard to be impressed by the teams they’ve defeated. Even in their 3-0 win over Cameroon in the Round of 16, the English were the benefactors of some fortunate VAR rulings and a frustrated Cameroon team. Phil Neville’s side is about to see a huge step up in competition.
Oh Captain, My Captain
England’s biggest concern at the moment is the health of captain Steph Houghton, who picked up an ankle injury on a nasty tackle during the Cameroon game. She hasn’t been ruled out, but the injury didn’t look good. In addition to scoring one of the three goals against Cameroon in the last game, Houghton is the leader of England’s defense. Neville’s team is not as deep along the back line as they are on the attack, so losing Houghton to injury would be a big deal.
Speaking of the English attack, they’ve yet to be at their best. That’s an odd thing to say for a team that’s scored eight goals in four games, but Ellen White has carried the team with four goals while no one else has more than one. The Lionesses haven’t been as crisp with their passing and movement as we expected; if they were, they would have put five or six goals past Cameroon. This is the point in the tournament where the English attack has to be sharp, or they risk going home.
Leaving It Late
Norway has fared better than expected in this tournament, although their biggest issue has been allowing goals late in games. Against Australia, they failed to capitalize on chances to go up 2-0 and then allowed the equalizer in the 83rd minute, forcing them to play an extra 30 minutes and go to penalties. They also allowed goals beyond the 70th minute against both South Korea and France. Such a trend could spell disaster at this point in the competition.
Scoring goals is another area where Norway has been lacking. Caroline Graham Hansen and the midfield have created some quality chances, but finishing hasn’t been a strength, as striker Isabell Herlovsen has just two goals in four-plus games. Beating England will probably require multiple goals or another trip to penalties, and so this is where Norway could feel the absence of Ada Hegerberg, a top-flight goal scorer who has chosen to sit out the tournament.
At Their Best
Despite some legitimate concerns, England should win his game if they can play anywhere close to their best. Even if they don’t, White may be able to carry them to the quarterfinals. Norway will need almost everything to go their way to advance, so bet on England winning this game.