England’s women captured the hearts of the nation at the 2017 European Championships. A disappointing 3-0 defeat to eventual winners the Netherlands in the semi-final ended their campaign, but the Lionesses were able to hold their heads high. One final qualifier under Mark Sampson yielded a 6-0 victory over Russia, a game that was overshadowed by Nikita Parris’ cross-field dash to celebrate with the outgoing manager, which was deemed controversial by some, in the light of the accusations against him at the time. A friendly defeat to France wasn’t the ideal start to Mo Marley’s reign as caretaker, but many would forgive her a stuttering start considering the circumstances.
Bosnia & Herzegovina secured victory in their opening qualifier away to Kazakhstan, but the eastern Europeans know that their chances of reaching France 2019 are incredibly slim. However, the ladies in blue and yellow, who are ranked 61st in the world rankings, are unbeaten in their last four outings, a run that stretches back to March, although they may be a little rusty having not taken to the field together since late October.
Despite wowing audiences at the Euros, the Lionesses are a team in transition following the axing of Mark Sampson. Much has been made of the 35-year-old’s time in charge of the national team, a period which may now be remembered more for the unfair treatment of Eni Aluko rather than the pulsating football on show. Interim manager Mo Marley will be hoping repair divisions in the squad and has promised an open door policy as she aims to deliver success.
Luckily for Marley, she has plenty of talent at her disposal and an attacking line that can unlock any defence. Jodie Taylor was the standout player in the summer and has already made her mark in qualifying with the second goal in her team’s rout of Russia. Toni Duggan is another player to watch, with the Barcelona forward seemingly unstoppable when she slips into the white shirt of England. The 26-year-old has two goals already and will be desperate for more.
It is hard to see the Lionesses losing, especially on home soil. They’ll go toe-to-toe with a Bosnia & Herzegovina side who may be in the same group, but are certainly not in the same league when it comes to class and experience. Predicting anything other than a comfortable victory for Marley’s girls looks very unwise.
Sports.net’s top tip:
England to win.