“England’s Draw with Portugal: More Questions than Answers?”
Following their impressive 30-match unbeaten streak, England’s recent performances have left fans with lingering uncertainties. The goalless draw against Portugal before their upcoming Women’s World Cup match against Australia has raised numerous concerns for manager Sarina Wiegman.
The match against Portugal shed light on some pressing issues. Wiegman’s team selection and preferred system came into question as Aston Villa’s Rachel Daly was chosen over the regular number nine, Alessia Russo. Additionally, the inclusion of Chelsea’s talented winger, Lauren James, and the absence of in-form Manchester City forward Chloe Kelly sparked discussions. Defensive adjustments were also made due to the absence of the injured captain, Millie Bright, with Alex Greenwood playing as a left-back and an unfamiliar partnership forming between Esme Morgan and Jess Carter.
However, England’s lackluster performance, devoid of fluidity and goals, indicated that Wiegman still has crucial decisions to make before their World Cup opener against Haiti on July 22nd.
When asked about the balance between questions and answers after the draw, Wiegman expressed her belief in having more answers. Nevertheless, key positions in the squad remain up for grabs, leaving the Dutchwoman no closer to finalizing her starting lineup.
One of the major debates heading into the tournament revolves around England’s number nine. With Ellen White, the previous starter, retiring after a successful Euro 2022 campaign, Russo seemed like the natural successor. However, Russo’s inconsistency since last summer, coupled with her lower goal tally in the Women’s Super League compared to Rachel Daly and Bethany England, has opened the door for competition. Daly had the chance to stake her claim against Portugal but failed to capitalize, while Russo made an impact in the second half. Despite this, neither striker managed to find the net against a Portugal side ranked significantly lower in the FIFA rankings. This leaves Wiegman no closer to determining her preferred number nine, with Daly, Russo, and England all vying for the position.
Another dilemma Wiegman faces is how to maximize the potential of the highly talented Lauren James. The versatile player is widely regarded as one of her generation’s brightest prospects, although her style may deviate from the norm. With fierce competition in the wide forward positions, particularly from Manchester City’s Chloe Kelly and Lauren Hemp, James’ role has come into question. Against Portugal, James displayed promise, forming a good understanding with Lucy Bronze in the first half but faltering in the final third. However, Wiegman’s decision to move her to a deeper number 10 position in the second half seemed to bring out the best in her, as she linked up effectively with Russo and Kelly. James had the best chance of the match, setting up Russo for a potential goal, only to be denied by an exceptional goalline block. This prompts further examination of whether James may be more effective in a central role rather than out wide.
The readiness of the England squad for the World Cup is also a concern. Injuries have already sidelined key players like captain Leah Williamson, Beth Mead, and Fran Kirby. The uncertainty surrounding the fitness of influential center-back Millie Bright compounds Wiegman’s challenges. This contrasts with the relatively smoother preparations heading into Euro 2022. England’s form has also dipped slightly, with their unbeaten streak coming to an end against Australia before the draw with Portugal. Valid reasons for this decline include injuries and a lack of match practice following the conclusion of the Women’s Super League season. However, questions remain about whether England’s preparations this time around are as solid as they were last summer.
In response to these concerns, Wiegman remains focused on developing the team’s style of play with the available players. Despite the disappointment of not scoring against Portugal, she asserts that the team has a clear vision of what they want to achieve and is working diligently towards it.
As England’s Women’s World Cup journey approaches, uncertainties persist. The performance against Portugal has raised more questions than answers, leaving Wiegman with critical decisions to make regarding team selection, tactical approach, and player roles. Only time will tell if England can find the solutions necessary to excel on the global stage.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Women’s World Cup preparation
What were the key concerns for England after their draw with Portugal?
The key concerns for England after their draw with Portugal were related to team selection, tactical choices, and player roles. Manager Sarina Wiegman had to ponder over these aspects in preparation for the Women’s World Cup.