How many teams have reached a major tournament final after switching to a completely new and never-before-seen formation midway through? Not many, if any at all. But England’s change of system, and the way the players have taken to it, is a huge, huge reason why the Lionesses have the chance to become champions of the world for the very first time on Sunday.
After starting the tournament in a 4-3-3 set-up, head coach Sarina Wiegman caught everyone on the outside off guard when she flipped it to a 3-5-2 for the final group game against China. The switch reaped immediate rewards, and at both ends of the field. After laboured 1-0 wins in their two previous group games, England routed China 6-1, with the only goal conceded coming from a penalty.
But while the partnership between Alessia Russo and Lauren Hemp in the front two has been crucial to England's improvement, the most important and significant improvements have been at the other end of the team where a back three of Jess Carter, Millie Bright and Alex Greenwood has made England look so much more secure and a lot better in their build-up play, too.
What did Sir Alex Ferguson once say? Attack wins you games, defence wins you titles. Going into Sunday’s Women’s World Cup final against Spain, the Lionesses will certainly hope that rings true because their back-line has been absolutely phenomenal on their historic journey.