England women 1-0 Brazil women: Fran Kirby’s early goal gives Lionesses win

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England women 1-0 Brazil women: Fran Kirby’s early goal gives Lionesses win
Fran Kirby gave England the perfect start after at Meadow Lane with her 11th international goal

Fran Kirby’s third-minute header earned England women an impressive victory over Brazil women in the first of two friendlies against top-quality opposition.

The Chelsea striker’s 11th international goal was expertly finished at the near post from a delightful cross by the excellent Nikita Parris and set the tone for a stylish attacking display.

Boss Phil Neville had implored his team to treat the match against the world’s eighth best side at Meadow Lane as a World Cup quarter-final and prove they are contenders for next year’s tournament in France.

Having strolled through qualification for next summer’s World Cup in France without losing a game, Neville is mindful of sterner tests to come.

But England, who face Australia at Craven Cottage on Tuesday, were dominant from the start, with Parris and Kirby particularly dangerous.

Parris could easily have had a hat-trick, Kirby was a constant menace playing in the number 10 role, while Rachel Daly also came close to adding to the lead on several occasions.

Brazil offered little in attack, although their cause was not helped by an injury to six-time world player of the year Marta midway through the first half.

The closest they came was when keeper Carly Telford had to make a fine one-on-one save to deny Marta’s replacement Raquel.

Wasteful England?

Perhaps the only concern for Neville in a fine performance will be the inability to take their chances and also make the most of numerous promising situations.

Kirby almost scored a carbon copy second goal from another jinking Parris run, but it was Manchester City winger Parris and Daly who had the bulk of the chances on a bitterly cold day in Nottingham.

Daly shot over from a Kirby pull-back, was off target with another effort and was unlucky not to score with a fierce first-time strike after the break that was brilliantly kept out by Barbara.

Parris excelled, with Brazil never getting to grips with her pace and direct running. She should have had at least a couple of goals to show for her efforts, but shot wide from 20 yards and scooped another effort over the bar after seeing her initial attempt blocked.

Kirby the perfect 10

Match-winner Kirby revelled in the number 10 role, playing with freedom and ensuring England had a threat in every attacking area.

Parris and Toni Duggan brought width, Daly held the ball up and provided the focal point that allowed Kirby to find space in central areas.

It was a different to the more traditional centre-forward role she plays for Chelsea, but her performance suggests it is one she can slip into with ease and that she is more than just one of the most feared goalscorers of her generation.

Bright and bold at the back

For all England’s attacking threat, there was also plenty to admire defensively.

The risky high-press and brave attacking selection will always leave the potential for being caught out at the back.

But the system stood firm, aside from a couple of individual errors, notably when Alex Greenwood’s sloppy backpass meant Telford had to make rush from her goal to beat away Raquel’s shot.

Jordan Nobbs showed she has the tenacity and intelligence to provide cover in front of a back four so well marshalled by the imposing figure of Chelsea’s Millie Bright.

Bright played a key role alongside the ever-reliable Steph Houghton, the former making full use of her passing range and ability to instigate attacks.

More to follow.

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