England worry Wiegman despite win as exciting World Cup debutants Haiti expose rusty Lionesses

Jason Soutar
England duo Millie Bright and Lucy Bronze.
Millie Bright and Lucy Bronze look on during England vs Haiti.

England had a moment of madness to thank as they got their World Cup campaign up and running with a mediocre 1-0 victory over Haiti.


Going into England’s opening fixture down under, they lacked rhythm and momentum with several important players missing through injury.

Arsenal duo Beth Mead – who finished second in Ballon d’Or voting – and Leah Williamson – Sarina Wiegman’s captain – were both out, as was Chelsea star Fran Kirby. Their absence was notable.

The Lionesses made things very difficult for themselves against the a 49 places worse off in FIFA’s world rankings. Yes, the build-up to the tournament has been less than ideal, but this was a perfect opponent for an opening fixture, even if Haiti have two or three very dangerous players.

The most threatening of the lot is undoubtedly Melchie Dumornay, who has just completed a move to French champions Lyon after a terrific time at Reims. At the age of 19, Dumornay will ensure Haiti become World Cup regulars having made their tournament debut this summer. She is surrounded by young, exciting players and her ability with the ball at her feet caused England problem after problem on Saturday morning.

Weigman’s back four of Lucy Bronze, Millie Bright, Jess Carter and Alex Greenwood is not the head coach’s preferred defence and having just returned from injury, Bright’s lack of match sharpness was evident. Her rusty pass in the opening minutes showed her need for game time as Haiti looked to catch England on their heels. Mary Earps had to make impressive saves to deny Haiti’s only two shots on target, especially the second one with the bottom of her left foot, which denied Roseline Eloissaint in a one-on-one situation. That was the biggest chance of the game from open play by a long way.

The difference on the day came from the penalty spot, and Haiti, in particular Roselord Bogella, will be kicking themselves silly having lost the game after a monumental brain fart handed Georgia Stanway the opportunity to convert from 12 yards.

Bogella thought she was playing handball for a split second as a cross grazed her fingertips in a desperate – and bizarre – attempt to catch the ball. Stanway stepped up and had her shot spectacularly saved by 5’4″ Haitian goalkeeper Kerly Theus. Unfortunately for the CONCACAF outfit, Theus was off her line and the retaken penalty was converted by Stanway, who made it eight out of eight from the spot for her nation.

Haiti were dangerous on the counter and England can feel very relieved to see out the win. They did their best to punish a sloppy Lionesses performance, but it just was not enough. If not for a silly handball, they could have picked up the best result in their history.

The threat of conceding in transition is something Weigman will have to focus on between now and Friday’s match against Denmark. Although they were not undone, they should have been. Of course, Bright was playing her first match in four months and there is no Williamson, but this should have been a comfortable win, even if Haiti have a future Ballon d’Or contender in Dumornay.

But the most important thing for England was to find some continuity, gain match sharpness, and most importantly win the match. They did all three…just about.

What is for sure is that Wiegman’s side will have to perform a lot better against Denmark and then China; if they do not, they will struggle to get out of Group D.

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