England strike duo Beth Mead and Jodie Taylor both said they were working hard on becoming more clinical as a forward unit after their 1–0 win against Argentina on Friday night.
Current Arsenal forward Mead combined with former Arsenal forward Taylor to score the only goal of the game in what was turning into a frustrating encounter for Phil Neville’s Lionesses.
But a quick break up field after a rare Argentina break allowed Mead to slide an accurate low cross into Taylor’s path and the current Reign FC striker couldn’t help but slide the ball home from inside the six-yard box.
“I need to watch it back,” chuckled Taylor. “I just knew where Beth was going to play it. It must be roommates or something and becoming more connected, but, yeah, it was such a good ball from Beth and I was in the right place to time my run and put it in the back of the net.”
Taylor was one of four changes made by Neville after the win against Scotland last Sunday with Ellen White, who has also found the net already during the tournament, dropped to the bench.
It didn’t appear to hamper England, who created several meaningful chances but were constantly thwarted by Argentina goalkeeper Vanina Correa, including a save from the penalty spot against Nikita Parris.
Taylor admitted post-match it was starting to feel like a bit of a “battle” between the goalkeeper, who won player of the match, and England’s forwards.
“I always felt like it was going to come though,” she said. “It’s one of those days where you just have a feeling. It was there, it just took a bit of time. We’re happy with the performance and as soon as we got a goal we could relax.”
On building up a relationship with Mead, Taylor added, “I do believe the closer you are as a team the better your performance will be on the pitch. You’re more likely to work harder for each other, to show belief in each other, and encourage each other.
“We’ve got a really good team togetherness, not only with Beth as my roommate but the other girls in the squad. The camaraderie in the group is good and we just go from strength to strength.”
Mead has always been known in the FA WSL as a goal scorer, from her time helping Sunderland get promoted from FA WSL 2 to her big move to Arsenal more than two years ago.
But the arrival of Netherlands star Vivianne Miedema has seen Mead take on a new position, regularly playing on either wing for Arsenal and also a position she’s now become accustomed to for her country.
Mead broke the record for assists as Arsenal won the FA WSL last month and has now added to her career tally after setting up Taylor’s goal in Le Havre.
“The girls are laughing at me saying I’m more of a creator now than a goal scorer,” Mead said. “But it’s about anyway I can help. I think we can be a bit more ruthless. We could take a shot rather than slip a pass in. We have to learn and move on, me included, I need to be more ruthless.”
The former Mackem has started both games of the World Cup so far despite only making her senior debut just more than a year ago. But despite her relative lack of experience compared to someone like Taylor, who now has seven goals in major tournaments, Mead is looking to contribute whenever she can and echoes Taylor’s thoughts when it comes to working on their partnership.
“I’m over the moon to be here and starting,” she admitted. “Jodie and I have been working on a lot of things like that in training, trying to get on the same wavelength and it has paid off.
“It was a victory for perseverance tonight because we played some really good football, we looked impressive at times, we just couldn’t get that final bit of class or that clinical finish in front of goal.”
Mead was one of the players denied the opening goal by Correa in the first half while the 35-year-old followed up her penalty save from Parris with another superb save in the second half from the same opponent.
Mead admitted, “I probably should have scored. Maybe I should have lifted the shot a bit more but the goalkeeper had a great night and made a good save.”
When she was finally beaten, it was Taylor’s first goal in an English shirt for 14 months and just her third in the 18 months Neville has been in charge.
When asked about the amount of time she’s gone without a goal in a Lionesses shirt, Taylor shrugged off any suggestions it might have been playing on her mind.
“Not really, not until all of you people start bringing it up,” she said. “It’s the same process whether you score or not, you’re still trying to be in the right place at the right time and a lot of it comes down to service and quality.
“I’m the first one to admit that I score goals because of my teammates. At the Euros I won the golden boot because of the quality of them. I think that ball from Beth absolutely shows that. I was on the other side with a few assists at the SheBelieves Cup. Unless you’ve got people like you with your phones out, telling me it’s been 14 months. It’s just nice to score at major tournaments. It’s what it’s all about, it’s brilliant.”
Taylor, who also started the defeat against New Zealand in England’s last warm-up friendly, admitted that game was a “great lesson” for the players and the staff to prepare them for coming up against more defensive sides such as Argentina.
England has secured a path to the second round with a game to spare after two narrow wins but Mead admits there are still things the team need to improve on.
“We’re heading in the right direction,” she said. “We’re getting momentum and it feels like we are progressing but there’s things we need to work on. We have things to improve on, but we also need to remember the things we’re good at.”
There was plenty of talk after the Scotland match regarding the performances of Lucy Bronze and Nikita Parris down England’s right-hand side, with the former Manchester City duo causing all sorts of issues for Scotland’s left back Nicola Docherty.
Alex Greenwood and Mead both endured quiet periods in the opening match but combined several times, including to win the penalty, in what was a much improved performance by both, and Mead admitted conversations had been had about doing the same down her side of the pitch.
“Phil has said we need to be a world-class team down the left and the right. Me and Alex have had to up our game and hopefully we have showed little glimpses of that tonight. There is more to come, we have to become a good side down the left.
“It probably worked in our favor that they tried to shut off the right-hand side because it gave us a bit more opportunity to play. We have to take a few risks, we were passing the ball around to draw them out.”