An end-to-end encounter once again produced as many questions as it did answers for new England head coach Phil Neville as England walked away with a point in a 2-2 draw that will leave the boss feeling both pleased and frustrated at the same time.
There were both positives and negatives aplenty to take away from what was a strange game and typically unusual for England versus Germany encounters.
Usually cagey affairs, the game produced four goals and chances for both sides to win the game at several points and plenty of dubious defending both teams will want to forget about in a hurry.
Phil Neville made five changes to the side that demolished France on Thursday, one of them enforced with Anita Asante traveling home after picking up a knee injury in last week’s game.
The changes ensured England lacked balance in midfield during the opening 45 minutes. Fran Kirby was once again deployed in a very advanced midfield role while Fara Williams took the place of Keira Walsh, a move which appeared to unsettle the Lionesses.
Williams was off the pace and with Kirby given all the responsibility to attack and link up with the front three, it left Jill Scott unable to take up the box-to-box role she plays for Manchester City, instead having to take on more defensive responsibility alongside Williams.
The Kirby conundrum is something which already looks like it will pose many questions for the new boss. An undoubtedly talented player and at times England’s best creative spark during the two games so far, Kirby doesn’t offer the balance for a midfield three that Izzy Christiansen would playing with her two Manchester City teammates, or for that matter, Arsenal’s Jordan Nobbs when she returns from injury.
Kirby was at the heart of several flowing England moves but missed a glaring opportunity when she hesitated in front of goal and Christiansen’s classy cameo off the bench leaves a big question mark over that position for next week’s decider against the United States.
There were certainly other positives in attack for England as they created chances against a top side in a daring attacking performance rarely seen under Mark Sampson, although they did pay for it in defensive sloppiness for both Germany goals.
Neville will have to find a way to match up attacking and defending in equal measure but will have been impressed by Mel Lawley and Ellen White, while Toni Duggan had a quieter game than against France on Thursday.
Lawley constantly gave Germany left back Verena Faisst a torrid time during the first half while White’s grit and determination caused the German back line all kinds of issues (though even White can’t claim she knew much about her opener).
The Birmingham City forward kept her nerve to make it 2-2 but did miss a big game-winning chance of her own, as did late substitute Rachel Daly.
With the midfield a mixed bag and the attack looking good, the major question marks heading into the final game of the tournament lie in defense and in goal after a couple of calamitous goals ensured Germany walked away with a point.
Several times during the buildup play for both goals England had chances to clear their lines, including a poor attempt at a clearance from Williams that allowed Tabea Kemme a second chance at crossing into the box before Demi Stokes inadvertently smashed the ball against Hasret Kayikçi’s boot and into the corner of the net.
If the first was bad, the second easily surpassed it. Siobhan Chamberlain — picking up her 50th international cap — was hesitant to come for a ball Abbie McManus was trying to shield from the German attacker. McManus did well to block the shot after the mix-up almost cost England a goal, but the impending shot saw Chamberlain smash her clearance onto Bright and into the back of the net in what was some keystone cops defending from the Lionesses.
This is wild.
Germany up, 2-1. #SheBelievesCups pic.twitter.com/TXeVXihYtx
— Our Game Magazine (@OurGameMagazine) March 4, 2018
All in all, it wasn’t a bad performance from England and means a draw against the U.S. in Orlando would be enough to win the tournament for the first time but with changes to the personnel in the back four unlikely there needs to be plenty of work on the training ground before the match.
The attack is looking good and both Lawley and White have given Neville food for thought, and Keira Walsh’s introduction for Williams only confirmed that her position in the England team should now be a permanent one.