Kerly Theus, the Haiti goalkeeper, is not a commanding presence – PA/Zac Goodwin
It is less than a year since the Lionesses sent the nation wild by lifting the European Championship trophy. That instantly made them one of the favourites for this World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
England have never won the biggest prize in the women’s game. The furthest they have progressed is the semi-finals in 2015 and 2019.
The opening match, against Haiti, ought to be a gimme for Sarina Wiegman’s team.
What and when is it?
Kick-off is tomorrow, July 22, at 10.30am (BST). This is the eighth match of the World Cup so far.
Where is the match being played?
Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium, which has a capacity of 52,500.
How to watch
England’s first match of the tournament will be on ITV. A television blackout of the tournament was avoided in the UK after the BBC and ITV agreed a deal to show live coverage of every match.
It is not known whether the BBC and ITV increased their earlier offer but an agreement understood to be worth £7-7.9 million has been reached for the two free-to-air channels to broadcast all 64 matches. The games are split across the two networks.
Both BBC One and ITV1 will show the final on August 20 live.
What do I need to know about Haiti?
The Caribbean islanders made it to their first ever World Cup thanks to beating Chile 2-1 in an intercontinental playoff in February. Hait are ranked 53rd in the world and a relatively unknown quantity at the top international level.
Sarina Wiegman, England’s coach, says they have left “no stone unturned” in their preparations. Here are five things you need to know about opposition.
The ‘best young player in the world’
The Caribbean nation’s star player, Lyon midfielder Melchie Dumornay, was labelled as the ‘Best young player in the world’ in the respected NXGN list of wonderkids for 2022, alongside the male winner, England’s Jude Bellingham.
Dumornay scored two goals in February’s victory over Chile in the intercontinental play-offs to secure their place at the tournament finals. The 19-year-old grew up playing football in her bare feet on the streets of Haiti and starred at multiple youth international tournaments before securing a dream move to French giants Lyon, which was signed in January.
Speaking exclusively to Telegraph Sport about Haiti’s World Cup ambitions in February, Dumornay said: “We want to write history for Haiti and participate in this World Cup. We want the world to see that Haiti has some great players, and give back to the people.”
A 5ft 4in goalkeeper
Kerly Theus, at just 5ft 4in tall, is one of shortest shot-stoppers in the competition. She is said to have never planned to be a goalkeeper, but has established herself as her country’s No 1.
Plying her trade for Aigle Brillant AC, in a recent interview with the BBC Sport website she said: “There was no goalkeeper in my age group. I didn’t want to play in goal but I learned the mechanics: how to hold the ball, knowing when to dive, how to dive, things like that.
“I’ve been to tournaments where people said ‘Haiti? What’s that?’ We want the world to know about Haiti and the talent we have.”
They think England have a ‘problem with their finishing’
Manager Nicolas Delepine said in his pre-match press conference that England might not be firing on all cylinders in front of goal – referring to the Lionesses’ run of three matches without scoring a goal – saying: “They have great players, they’re a very tough team to play, they’re obviously very good on the attacking side but they maybe have a problem with finishing.”
He later added, when asked about England’s dangers: “We don’t fear anything. We’ll see [what happens] on the pitch, first we have to play our football, our strengths.”
Haiti are expected to play a defensive formation on Saturday with five players across the backline.
They’re in a tricky run of form
The World Cup debutants have arrived in Australia off the back of a four-match losing run, after defeats against Guatemala, Venezuela, Costa Rica and South Korea. However, earlier this year they enjoyed wins over Senegal and Chile, and last year they were victorious over Mexico, Cuba and Costa Rica.
Their world ranking of 53 is the highest they have achieved to date, thanks to finishing third in their original qualifying group for this tournament.
Their first meeting with England
As the third-lowest-ranked team in the World Cup, Haiti could be glad to have qualified, by they say they want to “make history” by “doing something special” against the Lionesses.
The two teams have never met before, but that is unsurprising because of the two side’s involvements in separate continental qualification processes.
There are no professional women’s clubs in Haiti, a country with a population of just over 11 million people. But they did make it to the men’s World Cup finals in 1974, where they finished bottom of a group that also included Argentina, Italy and Poland, with three defeats out of three. Anything better than that this time around would be seen as a big national sporting success.
Who else is in England’s group?
Along with Haiti Kiera Walsh and Co face Denmark and China in Group D.
Sarina Wiegman had this to say about the tricky pool. “It’s an exciting group,” the Lionesses manager said. “We know Denmark very well, China is a very good opponent too. They are in transition a little bit, or they were in transition.
“At the Olympics they were struggling, they have a new coach and won the Asian Cup. We don’t know the other one yet. Three very different opponents with a different style of play.”
What do the other World Cup groups look like?
Group A: New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Switzerland
Group B: Australia, Ireland, Nigeria, Canada
Group C: Spain, Costa Rica, Zambia, Japan
Group E: United States, Vietnam, Netherlands, Portugal
Group F: France, Jamaica, Brazil, Panama
Group G: Sweden, South Africa, Italy, Argentina
Group H: Germany, Morocco, Colombia, South Korea
What are the fixtures?
Women’s World Cup 2023 fixtures
Who is in England’s squad?
Goalkeepers: Mary Earps (Manchester United), Hannah Hampton (Aston Villa), Ellie Roebuck (Manchester City)
Defenders: Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Barcelona), Jess Carter (Chelsea), Niamh Charles (Chelsea), Alex Greenwood (Manchester City), Esme Morgan (Manchester City), Lotte Wubben-Moy (Arsenal)
Midfielders: Laura Coombs (Manchester City), Jordan Nobbs (Aston Villa), Georgia Stanway (Bayern Munich), Ella Toone (Manchester United), Keira Walsh (Barcelona), Katie Zelem (Manchester United)
Forwards: Rachel Daly (Aston Villa), Bethany England (Tottenham Hotspur), Lauren Hemp (Manchester City), Lauren James (Chelsea), Chloe Kelly (Manchester City), Katie Robinson (Brighton & Hove Albion), Alessia Russo (Manchester United)
Back England to open their tournament account with a dominant performance using these Women’s World Cup free bets
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