Cutting edge missing for unconvincing England, admits boss Sarina Wiegman

Cutting edge missing for unconvincing England, admits boss Sarina Wiegman

England boss Sarina Wiegman felt her European champions lacked “ruthlessness” after they eked out a 1-0 victory over debutants Haiti to open their World Cup campaign at Brisbane Stadium.

Georgia Stanway’s retaken first-half penalty was ultimately enough to win her side all three points, but did little to ease concerns about the Lionesses’ attacking form after they failed to find the back of the net in their previous three encounters.

Were it not for a late second-half save from FIFA women’s goalkeeper of the year Mary Earps to deny substitute Roseline Eloissaint, the fourth-ranked Lionesses could well have ended their evening with a draw against their underdog Group D opponents, who sit 49 places below them in the FIFA rankings.

Wiegman said: “I would say (we were missing) ruthlessness. It’s easy to say, so what does that mean, ruthlessness?

“I think sometimes the connections with the cross, the timing of the cross, where the cross actually ends in the penalty box, then the connection in front of the goal, little things like that, at the end, you hope it goes in.

“I think we were very close a couple of times to scoring a goal, and then of course their defence was tough too, so we just keep trying, keep working on it and start tomorrow again.”

While Wiegman brushed off the notion that England looked rusty, reiterating they were “absolutely ready”, she was nevertheless impressed by a Haiti side she characterised as “unpredictable, very direct, very strong in the counter-attack”.

Sarina Wiegman (centre) talks to her England players after the match
Sarina Wiegman (centre) talks to her England players after the match (Zac Goddwin/PA).

She said: “Lots of credit for Haiti for a first time in the World Cup and having a performance like that. I think the other two countries (in the group, Denmark and China) are going to really struggle with them, but of course that’s not our problem. I’m just really happy that we got the win.”

Haiti forward Roselord Borgella squandered an early chance when she found herself one-on-one with Earps but rolled her effort past the far post.

The Lionesses then thought they had won a least a penalty when Dayana Pierre-Louis clattered into Chloe Kelly on the byline and appeared to clip her knee with a stud, but the Haitian midfielder got away with just a yellow card after it was determined – following a lengthy VAR check – that Alessia Russo had committed a foul in the build-up.

Soon after that controversial decision, however, Batcheba Louis was punished for a handball and Stanway stepped up to the spot.

Haiti goalkeeper Kerly Theus reacts after England's penalty is ordered to be retaken
Haiti goalkeeper Kerly Theus reacts after England’s penalty is ordered to be retaken (Zac Goodwin/PA).

Though her initial effort was brilliantly saved by Kerly Theus, another VAR check determined the Haiti keeper had come off her line to make the stop and Stanway made no mistake with the resulting retake.

With the Lionesses unable to find the finishing touch in the second half, the majority England supporters in the 44,369 crowd breathed a collective sigh of relief when Earps made a brilliant save with her outstretched leg to deny Eloissaint and preserve the points.

Stanway added: “I think the most important thing to come out of it was the three points. It’s so important to win your first game in a tournament. It’s been a long build-up to today and we’re kind of happy to just get over the line.

“I think it takes a little bit to find your feet. Coming into a major tournament the pressure is high and the build-up is so long. You need those few minutes to get yourself into the game and settle, but once we did you could see the qualities that we have.”

England next face Denmark in Sydney before concluding the group stage against China in Adelaide.

Haiti boss Nicolas Delepine said: “We’re very proud of our performance. We’ve worked very hard and for us it was a huge test. We were up against the European champions.

“It was a huge test for us, we didn’t really know how to place ourselves. We weren’t sure how we were going to play, but we were able to pull it out of the bag. We were very close to England, but there are always things we can do better.”