England were lucky to leave Le Havre intact on Friday night after a brutal 1-0 win over Argentina, with the Group D underdogs intent on making things as difficult as possible for the Lionesses.
A stop-start game was dominated by Phil Neville's side from the off, with Beth Mead particularly threatening down the left in tandem with Alex Greenwood. It was the latter who earned England their best chance of the first half, being taken down in the box by Ruth Bravo for a clear penalty – but Vanina Correa saved brilliantly from Nikita Parris.
Correa also produced a fine save with her foot to keep out Mead shortly afterwards to keep the score level at half time. Her form continued into the second half – but a brilliant low cross from Mead around the hour mark saw the Argentine stopper helpless to prevent Jodie Taylor sneaking in at the back post to slot home.
Having taken the lead, England only threatened again in fits and starts. But needing nothing in terms of goal difference, the 1-0 win will do. For now.
Key Talking Point
Argentina proves their mettle against Japan on Monday, but England – semi-finalists four years ago and SheBelieves Cup winners earlier this year – would have hoped to tear through a side who expended a lot of energy in their opening match.
Not so. Despite having the lion's share (or the Lioness' share, aha) of the possession and the attacking momentum, England's final ball was often slightly wayward, or cut out by a deep-lying defender.
That failure to be clinical at key moments could be hugely costly against opponents with more of an attacking threat. It says a lot, in the end, that Taylor's opener was greeted with relief rather than triumph.
Starting XI: Telford (7); Bronze (7), Houghton (7), McManus (8), Greenwood (7); Moore (6), Scott (7), Kirby (5); Parris (6), Taylor (7), Mead (8*).
Subs: Stanway (N/A), Daly (N/A), Carney (N/A).
Beth Mead provided the devilish, swinging low ball for Taylor's opening goal, and caused havoc down the left-hand side almost every time she got onto the ball. Also mustn't forget that it was her who played in Greenwood just before she was taken down in the box for Parris' saved penalty.
Starting XI: Correa (9*); Barroso (7), Sachs (6), Cometti (7), Stabile (6); Bravo (4), Benitez (6), Mayorga (5), Banini (6); James (6), Bonsegundo (5).
Subs: Larroquette (6), Santana (6), Oviedo (N/A).
Vanina Correa was the most important player on the pitch for Argentina, and it wasn't even close. While her teammates niggled and nudged to frustrate England, her method was more classical. Her revision notes read, simply, 'just be really good'.
Her penalty save was one of the best you're ever likely to see, and subsequent saves from Mead and Parris had the Lionesses frustrated well into the second half.
England can now go into their final group game against second-placed Japan knowing that a draw will be enough to see them proceed to the knockout stage as Group D winners – even though that, theoretically, puts them on the more difficult side of the draw.
Argentina, meanwhile, can put themselves in a reasonable position to qualify as one of the four best third-placed teams with a win over Scotland in Paris on Wednesday.