Road to the World Cup: Fran Kirby helps Lionesses secure point against the States; Ji So-Yun wins big

Fran Kirby was key in England’s 2-2 draw with the United States at the end of a frantic week of women’s internationals.

The Chelsea Women star played the pass of the night to set up Nikita Parris for what looked like could be a winning goal for the Lionesses against the world champions and SheBelieves Cup hosts on Saturday night, before being substituted off six minutes later with the scores level.

USA captain Megan Rapinoe broke the deadlock in Nashville on 33 minutes, with a fantastic first touch and half-volley from the edge of the penalty area, before Lionesses skipper Steph Houghton levelled things up virtually straight away, swerving an indirect free-kick around the wall and into the net.

Like when they came back to beat Brazil on Wednesday, England settled into the game slowly but found a more fluid brand of football in the second half, and the chances began to flow. The best was created by Kirby, who pre-empted Parris’s movement and provided a perfect lofted pass.

The real possibility of England beating the best team in the world did not look like a reality for long, however, as Tobin Heath stabbed home the crucial equaliser in the 67th minute.

Kirby’s Chelsea colleague Karen Carney did not start the game as Phil Neville opted for a more conservative line-up than usual, including left-back Lucy Bronze in midfield. Carly Telford dropped to the bench having being named the starting goalkeeper in the Lionesses’ last two outings.

The head coach is likely to shuffle his pack again to face an energetic Japan side in Tampa on Tuesday, with kick-off at 10.15pm UK time, where a victory would secure silverware.

Read - Report: England v Brazil

Elsewhere, there was a wonderful result for Ji So-Yun in South Korea’s opening game at the Cup of Nations in Australia. Our playmaker capped their 5-0 thrashing of Argentina by clinching the last two goals, including one with her last action of the match before being substituted in the 75th minute.

Back in Europe, Erin Cuthbert featured throughout as Scotland kicked off their Algarve Cup campaign against Canada on Friday. The 20-year-old played in the hole behind their legendary goalscorer Jane Ross and had one of their best efforts of the encounter with an audacious attempt from distance.

A late penalty meant a defeat for the Scots against the fifth ranked team in the world. The result, which followed Canada’s goalless draw against Iceland earlier in the week, means Shelley Kerr’s side need to beat Iceland on Monday to avoid finishing bottom of their mini-group.

Jonna Andersson and Magdalena Eriksson shared the left wing-back position for Sweden against hosts Portugal as they slipped to a 2-1 defeat having taken the lead on the hour mark. Andersson played for 80 minutes before swapping with her Blues team-mate, who started on the bench alongside Hedvig Lindahl, both of whom were involved in the Scandinavians’ 4-1 win against Switzerland two days before.

Norway regulars Maren Mjelde and Maria Thorisdottir were rested for their 3-1 victory over China.

In the Cyprus Cup, Adelina Engman came on after an hour for Finland in their 2-1 defeat to the Czech Republic.

In Marbella, Sophie Ingle captained Wales to a 0-0 draw against Republic of Ireland.

By Danny Wittenberg

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