Women’s World Cup 2019: Ex-England and West Ham star Claire Rafferty talks Lionesses’ chances, players to wat

There’s great excitement around as the 2019 Women’s World Cup is about to get under way.

And you can listen to every single England and Scotland game LIVE across the talkSPORT network.

Can England boss Phil Neville inspire the Lionesses to glory in France?

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Can England boss Phil Neville inspire the Lionesses to glory in France?

Women’s World Cup: Full fixture list, dates, kick-off times and venues


Our coverage in France will be led by Natalie Sawyer – presenter of talkSPORT’s Kick Off show and The Times’ The Game podcast.

There will be further coverage of the tournament, including the opening game, both semi-finals, and the final too.

The finals, which get started on Friday June 7, should produce all sorts of drama but how will things unfold according to the experts?

talkSPORT.com sat down with former England, Chelsea and West Ham star Claire Rafferty, who represented the Lionesses at the 2011 and 2015 World Cups, to discuss England’s chances, which players to look out for and a whole lot more.

Rafferty will be offering her expert analysis with talkSPORT throughout the tournament

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Rafferty will be offering her expert analysis with talkSPORT throughout the tournament

How do you expect England’s group games to go?

“I think Scotland is going to be a tough one to start with. Their XI is very strong and defensively they can nullify the threats England have.

“But over the course of 90 minutes they won’t have as much possession as England and Scotland will have to stay concentrated to get something out of that game. If they can keep the likes of Kim Little off the ball then that will help England.

“It’s an emotional game but I see England aren’t getting too caught up in the emotion of it and they’re seeing it for what it is.

“For them [Scotland] it’s a World Cup final especially when you consider how badly they lost to England last time out (losing 6-0 at Euro 2017). They will want revenge and have had a good run going into the tournament.

England put Scotland to the sword in the Women’s European Championships in 2017, winning 6-0

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England put Scotland to the sword in the Women’s European Championships in 2017, winning 6-0

“Japan are quite a dominant team. They’ve got the Lyon player Saki Kumugai who is fantastic. I know Japan didn’t have their strongest team but England did beat them in the SheBelieves Cup so they’ve managed to switch their mentality to help them beat the big teams.

“Argentina aren’t brilliantly organised but that can be quite hard to play against because it’s hard to predict what patterns they’ll play in.

“The group for England is a tougher than anyone is letting on.

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What will be going through the heads of the England players right now?

“There’s a lot of excitement, anticipation and nerves and it’s down to the players to calm themselves down going into it.

“From my own experience, I liked routine and familiarity and it helped me before the first game.

“It’s different this time round because there’s pressure on England whereas when I was playing we didn’t have any pressure.

“It’s up to the senior players like Kaz [Karen] Carney, who’s quite forthright in her opinions, Jill Scott and of course the captain Steph Houghton. Steph is not as vocal but she has the calming presence around her.

Scott and Houghton won the Women’s FA Cup with Manchester City last month

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Scott and Houghton won the Women’s FA Cup with Manchester City last month

“There is a lot of experience too with the likes of Lucy Bronze, Ellen White and Jodie Taylor. They’ve been under pressure internationally and for their clubs so will know how to manage themselves and the players around them.”

Who will win the World Cup?

“I want England to win but it depends if they can get their best players like Fran Kirby and Nikita Parris firing or not.

“I think France have a really good chance. They’ve been a bit unsuccessful in recent years but because of the dominance of French football in the Champions League and the fact that they’ve got the home advantage will help. I just think they’re the strongest.”

What about the USA? They are the pre-tournament favourites according to the bookies…

“I don’t think the USA will win it. They’ve been trying a lot of formations and they’re in a transition period.

“I think ultimately the world’s caught up with them. For a long time they were dominant but some American players are now playing abroad.

The Americans are not Rafferty’s favourites to win the tournament

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The Americans are not Rafferty’s favourites to win the tournament

“The Americans will be there up there because they know how to win but they’ve been conceding a lot of goals recently.

“If they don’t get that right come the tournament then they’ll struggle.”

So if France are the team to beat, how do England stop them?

“That’s a good question. I’d beat France purely by going down the throat of their team.

“They’ve got two great centre-backs in Wendy Renard and Griedge Mbock Bathy and a lot of their team is based around that Lyon contingency.

Renard (left) and Mbock (right) have a very good partnership at the back

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Renard (left) and Mbock (right) have a very good partnership at the back

“But we’ve got strengths on the wings with Nikita Parris and Beth Mead and ideally we’d also drag their defence out as wide as possible and ask questions of their wing-backs.

“And if all else fails go route one!”

Other than English or Scottish players, who else should we look out for?

“Germany have got a really good squad. They’ve been under the radar and not a lot of people are talking about them. They’ve got players like Alexandra Popp and Dzsenifer Marozsan who overcame a blocked blood vessel in her arm and she still managed to lift the Champions League so that just shows the strength of character she has.

“Australia have Sam Kerr, who was the top goalscorer in the Australian and American league which is brilliant.

Wonderkids who could shine in France at the Women’s World Cup

“France have the Eugenie Le Sommer who can play as a striker or a winger. You’ve also got Amandine Henry who’s now the captain.

“Crystal Dunn of the USA is a threat. I know her well from my days at Chelsea. She’s a wing-back and is very effective at getting on the end of crosses and creating chances so she’s definitely one to watch and is someone that isn’t getting talked about that much.

“And there’s obviously Brazil’s Marta although I think she’s struggling with a muscle injury.

“Italy have the Juventus winger Barbara Bonansea. If Italy get it right then she’ll be thriving on the wing.”

Who will win the Golden Boot?

“I’d like to see an English top scorer. At Euro 2017 it was Jodie Taylor.

“You’ve also got the Dutch striker Vivianne Miedema who was the top scorer in the WSL and I think she’ll carry on her form into the tournament. It’ll be between Miedema or an English player I think.”

Jodie Taylor scored five goals at Euro 2017

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Jodie Taylor scored five goals at Euro 2017

How do you expect the West Ham players at the World Cup to perform?

“Adriana Leon of Canada is a fantastic dribbler of the ball but she’s more of an impact substitute for me. She can change a game and isn’t shy from having a shot from outside the box.

“There’s Jane Ross who plays for Scotland and other than against England I hope she has a good tournament!

“In the last tournament she had an injury. She’s really good at holding the ball up and is a handful to mark.

England will have to keep an eye on Rafferty’s West Ham team-mate and Scotland striker Jane Ross

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England will have to keep an eye on Rafferty’s West Ham team-mate and Scotland striker Jane Ross

“Then there’s Cho So-Hyun who’s in the middle of what will be an unreal South Korean midfield three.

“Cho is the defensive player and she doesn’t mind getting her foot stuck in which is quite rare for them. They’ve been said to be a bit lightweight because they’re a more technical team.

“It’ll be interesting to see how they get on in the first game of the tournament against France.”

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