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FIFA Women's World Cup 2019: England vs Scotland Tactical Analysis

FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 Tactical Preview: England vs Scotland

Matchday three of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Group D opens with a little local difficulty: 3rd-ranked England will meet up against 20th-ranked Scotland. With such a difficult group, this is a game in which neither will be contemplating defeat. In this preview tactical analysis, we will take a look at both teams’ style of play and see what tactical match-up may unfold.

Both Shelley Kerr and Phil Neville take charge of their first tournament as a National Team manager. England and Scotland joining Argentina and Japan in Group D. Despite being ranked as the third best international women’s team behind the USA and Germany, Neville is confident his side has what it takes; “I’m absolutely convinced we can have a successful tournament. We are going to give it everything we have to make the nation proud.” On the other hand, Kerr has stated: “The landscape of women’s football in Scotland will change if we achieve what we set out to achieve at this World Cup.”

The teams had contrasting fortunes in their final pre-tournament games. Scotland playing in front of 18,555 fans at Hampden Park beat Jamaica by three goals to two. Meanwhile at the Amex Stadium England with a crowd of 20,076 backing them were surprisingly beaten one nil by New Zealand.

The defeat was England’s second in four games of their ‘Road to France‘ series, following April’s one nil loss to Canada and well-deserved victories over Spain and Denmark. Whereas Scotland is unbeaten in their last five against Jamaica, Brazil, Chile, Denmark and Iceland. The only draw being against Chile.

Possible line ups


Telford – Bronze, Houghton, McManus and Greenwood – Staniforth, Kirby and Walsh – Parris, Taylor and Duggan


Alexander – Smith, Beattie, Corsie and Docherty – Little and Weir – Evans, Cuthbert and Emslie – Ross.

Playing style

England, beaten in the semi-final by three times winner USA four years ago, are committed to playing from the back and building up play through the thirds. In a 4 – 3 – 3 their wingers will go high and as wide as possible to open passing channels. The attacking midfielders will try to occupy the space between the midfield and defensive blocks. Meanwhile, the full backs will support the build-up phase and again try to stretch the opposition.

FIFA Women's World Cup 2018/19 Tactical Preview Statistics: England Scotland
England’s offensive midfielders occupy the space between the lines, while the full-backs support the initial build-up.

Scotland, World Cup debutants, are in many ways similar, they favour a 4 – 2 – 3 – 1 which easily converts to a 4 – 2 – 1 – 3. Committed to a patient build up from the goalkeeper through to centre backs and looking for passes that break the opposition lines. The full backs will get forward to support the wingers or go past if space has been created. They move the opposition to isolate their wingers in a one versus one against the opposition full backs.

FIFA Women's World Cup 2018/19 Tactical Preview Statistics: England Scotland
Scotland centre-back breaking the lines and finding an attacking player.

The “hat of the team”

“The team’s hat” is a term given to the front three players. In attack, England favour a balanced front three with two wide wingers and the main striker. This opens the oppositions with the intention of two No.10’s getting between the lines. Scotland’s variation is an inverted front three with two wingers starting wide but coming into the half spaces and central area. This means an increased emphasis is placed on the fullbacks underneath to get forward and provide width when appropriate.

In attack

England frequently overloads one side of the pitch with the intention of drawing the opponent’s defensive block over. With one and two touch combinations, they play through the congested flank before finishing the move in the free space on the far side.

Scotland shows a degree of ingenuity and intelligent combination play in the final third, with one-twos or the third player runs. The one-twos primarily come between the attacking midfielder and the centre-forward and are particularly effective when Little and Cuthbert are involved. Above all, the forward runs are often provided by Weir from central midfield and can cause opposition defences some problems.

The case for the defensive

Scotland will likely play defensively in a 4-1-4-1. Their attacking midfielder dropping deeper to become a central midfielder, with a deep pivot below her. She will ensure there aren’t any gaps between the defence and midfield. Staying compact will make it harder for England to penetrate centrally. The deepest midfielder protecting the back four and pressing the No.10. However, if they defend high, as they have done in the past, this will leave space behind for England to play “up, back and through” or “overload to isolate” and switch play.

England will also likely defend in a 4 – 1 – 4 – 1. They press with control during the opponent’s build-up, while increasing the intensity upon triggers. They initially look to force a long ball by using a passing lane orientated pressing scheme to cut off the short options. During a more established defensive phase, they will close the centre and force the play down the sides. From here, the ball-near full-back moves out to press the opposing winger, with support from the teammate in front of her. The near defensive midfielder moves to fill the gap left by the full-back, while the remaining three defenders form a compact line of three in the penalty area to prepare for a cross.

The key players

The players that play with flair and creativity in attacking midfield roles. The players that make things happen.

England has Fran Kirby, she is a No.10, a playmaker. Her performance against Brazil had Phil Neville saying “I’d take my No 10 over Brazil’s No 10, that’s for sure” in reference to six-time world player of the year, Marta. One of her key strengths is her ability to receive the ball in advanced positions, retain possession and create opportunities through breaking the lines by dribbling or passing.

Scotland has Caroline Weir, an energiser, a player who roams box to box and dominates. She tends to keep it neat and tidy in midfield. Given her strong running style, she gets beyond players and attacks the box, with her third player runs. She is also the team’s main set-piece taker and delivers from both corners and free-kicks. Scoring from a free kick against Jamaica in the team’s final warm-up match.

FIFA Women's World Cup 2019 Tactical Preview England Scotland Statistics
As her opponents focus on the ball, Weir starts her run.
FIFA Women's World Cup 2019 Tactical Preview England Scotland Statistics
Weir continues her run all the way into the box.

Who will have the louder roar?

As with any opening group match, it is very important not to lose. Two years ago, England defeated Scotland six-nil in the opening UEFA Women’s Championship in the Netherlands. However, this time Scotland are fitter, more organised and better prepared. Although Scotland has seven part-time players in the squad. Over the last few months, they have prepared and trained full time.

Past experience could be a vital factor; England has players such as Karen Carney participating in her fourth World Cup. Whereas the only Scottish player with previous World Cup experience is Sophie Howard. Sophie was part of the Germany squad for the Under 20 Women’s World Cup in Japan back in 2012.

In their three most recent games England have outperformed their expected goals tally at a margin of 1.25. Could this be about to regress? Based on world rankings, previous form, past experience and just about everything else England are favourites to with ease.

Scotland will have nothing to fear when they take on England, it is England’s game to lose. Scotland relish being underdogs as they have shown by beating Brazil. Shelley Kerr will ensure there is a positive frame of mind as they go into the game. They are determined to go where no other Scotland team have gone.

Who will gain the most pride in this feline battle?

If you are following the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 then you will find our FREE tactical preview magazine the perfect compliment to the tournament. You can download it HERE – each nation is previewed and we also profile their key player and young player to watch. Enjoy!