By Thomas Reynolds
26th June 2019
England are sweating on the fitness of first-choice centre-half duo Steph Houghton and Mille Bright ahead of their World Cup quarter-final showdown with Le Havre.
Houghton is laid low with an injury suffered late on against Cameroon while Bright has a virus, with Manchester United’s Abbie McManus and Leah Williamson of Arsenal waiting in the wings.
Lionesses coach Phil Neville has been doing his best to exude confidence in his understudies, telling reporters:
“We can bring in two people who know the system and they have utter belief and confidence in each other. It’s a seamless transition.”
“I put my life on Leah and Abbie that, if called upon, they will be the best two players on the pitch.”
However, the former Valencia assistant could easily have been trying to reassure a squad whose progress has been underpinned by defensive stability to a greater extent than goal-power far.
A substantial gulf in experience between first-choice pair and their understudies
There remains a substantial gulf in international experience between the first choice duo and their potential replacements.
McManus (13 caps) and Williamson (6) have less international appearances under their combined belts, than Bright (26), whose own tally is dwarfed by that of the team’s captain Houghton (105). Of the first-choice pairing its Bright who is thought the most likely to participate.
Both understudies have dipped their toes in the World Cup water, but only for the last 10 minutes against of the quarterfinal (Williamson) and the defensive day off against a limited Argentina, plus the second half where England lost control of the game against Scotland.
The England vs Norway both teams to score betting is a pick ‘em affair with odds of 17/20 available about the yes and no options. Should either Houghton or Bright be absent the former would seem a comfortable selection.
Norway capable of pushing England into extra time
Norway have coped admirably with the absence of Ballon d’Or winning striker Ada Hegerberg, scoring in every game so far. That included hitting Nigeria for three when hosts France could only bag one against the Super Falcons.
However, they’ve also conceded in their last three outings against Les Bleus, South Korea and vanquished quarter-final foes Australia, whom they beat in a penalty shootout.
The Grasshoppers, as the Norwegian women are known, are 27/10 outsiders in the Norway vs England match betting.
Yet, with the exception of Ellen White’s well-crafted brace against Japan, the Lionesses have struggled to an extent to score from open play throughout the tournament.
They benefited from a penalty against Scotland and notched just once against Argentina, while two of their goals against Cameroon came from set-pieces.
As such and given their potential defensive issues may aid Norway in scoring, the 23/10 about the normal time draw looks the pick of the match betting odds.
England are 10/1 to in the ‘to win in extra time market’, while odds of 12/1 are available about both sides to win on penalties.