England in 2015 v England in 2019: How Neville's transformation led Lionesses back to World Cup semi-finals

The Opta data shows 2019 Women's World Cup semi-finalists England have been far more impressive than they were in 2015.
The Opta data shows 2019 Women's World Cup semi-finalists England have been far more impressive than they were in 2015.

England have reached the Women's World Cup semi-finals again, but the manner in which they have done so has been far more impressive.

Four years ago in Canada the Lionesses were one of the competition's surprise packages, beating Norway and the hosts in the knockout phase before being eliminated when Laura Bassett scored a stoppage-time own goal against Japan in the last four.

Phil Neville's class of 2019 have returned to that stage in France and meet the United States, the defending champions and tournament favourites, in Lyon on Tuesday.

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Here we crunch the Opta numbers on Mark Sampson's 2015 team and Neville's squad to show how England have been considerably better at both ends of the pitch in 2019.

Expected goals excluding penalties (0.9 per game in 2015 v 2.1 per game in 2019)

England have already scored more goals across five matches in 2019 (11) than they did in seven games in 2015 (10), with Neville's side netting three times in each of their wins over Cameroon and Norway. 

Ellen White could yet replicate Three Lions star Harry Kane and win the Golden Boot too as she is in a four-way tie at the top with five goals. 

The Lionesses are having more shots per game (13.6) than four years ago (12.7) and they are creating better quality chances, as displayed by their xG.

Total shots faced (15.6 per game in 2015 v 8.6 in 2019)

There have been suggestions that England have been too open and look vulnerable at the back, but the numbers indicate Neville's team are far more resolute than Sampson's.

Since conceding to Scotland in their first group game, England have kept four clean sheets and have faced 43 shots across the entire tournament.

There were 109 efforts attempted against a 2015 team that shipped seven goals and did not keep a clean sheet until beating Germany 1-0 in the third-place play-off.

Successful passes (193 per game in 2015 v 435 per game in 2019)

Neville preaches a possession-based style that he refuses to budge from and the stats show it is working.

England have already completed 2,173 passes in their five fixtures, compared to 1,354 in seven games in 2015. They have also averaged a 60.1 per cent share of possession, having had only 44.3 per cent four years ago.

Right-back Lucy Bronze, who also featured in 2015, has been key for Neville and has had more touches than any other player in France.

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