England vs Haiti
Russo is set to spearhead the Lionesses front line in their opener, with Sarina Wiegman likely to prefer her to Rachel Daly.
Russo was used more as an impact player in their Euros triumph, but now, she’s the focal point.
Russo netted 10 times in 20 games for Man United last season. She scored 5 in 4 during qualifying for this competition and also helped herself to 4 goals at the European Championships.
Make no bones about it, Haiti aren’t remotely close to England in terms of quality, hence their 125/1 price to win.
England should rack up plenty of goals. This is a side who’ve conceded 4 to the likes of Venezuela and Jamaica. They’re ranked 54th in the world.
With service from Lauren Hemp and Chloe Kelly in wide areas, as well as the advancing Georgia Stanway; Russo shouldn’t be short of chances.
The ideal scenario here is a Russo goal laid on by Lauren Hemp.
Hemp is one of, if not the most technically gifted player in this England side. Fleet of foot and with a cracking turn of pace.
Hemp has laid on 20 assists in 57 WSL games across the last 3 seasons for Manchester City.
In the qualifiers for this tournament, Hemp put up sensational numbers. In her 10 games she scored 7 goals and assisted 11.
Haiti will likely camp in for long periods and Hemp will be key to unlocking the door. Her ability to operate in tight spaces will be crucial, and if she can get between the lines, you can bank on her to choose the right pass.
In a game devoid of much value, the assist market does look promising and the 2.40 price for Hemp is getting my backing.
The likes of Stanway, James & Toone all posted fewer assists than her during qualifying yet are considerably shorter odds.
Again, I’m looking for decent value here, so you’ve got to look a bit further afield than the obvious.
Lucy Bronze has been an incredible servant for her country and was integral at the Euros.
She’s had a good season after moving to Barcelona, bettering her goal tally from any other season in her career.
Bronze always wants to get forward, and Wiegman has given her the license to do just that.
She had 6 shots at the Euros, 3 on target. I was in between 2 shots or 1 on target, but I think in this game, the latter edges it for me.
As I’ve said, Haiti won’t be up to much, and Bronze will be given the freedom to get forward. She’s always keen to take on a pot shot, a scenario that’s likely to present itself as Haiti sit in close to their own box.
Bronze averaged 1.64 shots per 90 this season, which placed her in the top 98 percentile of full backs across the top leagues.
Another weapon in her arsenal is her incredible aerial ability. Much more akin to that of a centre half, Bronze wins 3.16 aerial duels/90, putting her in the top 99 percentile for her position.
As she gets higher up the pitch, this is a weapon England can exploit. If Haiti decide to invite crosses, Bronze could be a real handful, especially as Hemp looks to find her from the opposing flank.
Stanway is England’s all action midfielder. Her massive work rate, combined with a steely grit but also some wonderful technical ability has made her a real favourite in this squad.
What we’re focusing on here though, is how aggressive she is when aiming to win the ball back.
Stanway made the switch to Bayern Munich this season, and in her 21 appearances she has already accumulated 8 yellow cards.
At the Euro’s, she was the only England player to be booked more than once.
In that tournament she made 3 fouls in the Quarters, Semis and final. She also committed 1 in the 5-0 walkover of Northern Ireland in the groups.
Yes, England will have a huge amount of the ball. But 1 foul is still a reliable bet here, Stanway’s eagerness to press hard and get the ball back can always lead her to giving away a soft foul.
When Haiti do get hold of the ball, even briefly, they’ll likely look to buy a foul to relieve some pressure.