Sarina Wiegman insists England in ‘very good place’ despite draw with Portugal

Sarina Wiegman insists England in ‘very good place’ despite draw with Portugal

Sarina Wiegman feels England are “in a very good place” with a few days to go before they depart the country for this summer’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

The Lionesses, who have been in a pre-tournament camp since June 19, were held to a 0-0 draw by Portugal at Stadium MK in a send-off warm-up match on Saturday, with their flight set to follow on Wednesday.

They are scheduled to have another warm-up, against Canada behind closed doors, on July 14 and kick off their World Cup campaign eight days later with the Group D meeting with Haiti in Brisbane.

Saturday saw Wiegman, who had captain Millie Bright unavailable, make some interesting calls for her starting line-up and six substitutions during a contest in which the European champions failed to score despite creating a considerable number of chances.

The England manager said: “I think we’re in a very good place.

“I think we had two very good weeks, on and off the pitch. I think this game was very helpful, although we are disappointed we didn’t score a goal.

“If you see how the game went and what we wanted to do and how we wanted to play, you can tell that we really know what we want to do, and that’s really what we’re working on.”

With regular skipper Leah Williamson having been ruled out of the World Cup by an ACL injury and fellow centre-back Bright still not involved as she continued to build up her fitness, Wiegman – who made goalkeeper Mary Earps captain for the game – brought Alex Greenwood into the defence in one of three changes to her starting XI from April’s 2-0 loss to Australia.

She opted to start the experienced Greenwood at left-back as Jess Carter came inside to partner Esme Morgan in the middle.

There was also Women’s Super League Golden Boot winner Rachel Daly coming in for Alessia Russo up front, and Lauren James for Chloe Kelly on the right side of the attack.

After a first half in which Daly had two early headers saved and Georgia Stanway sent an effort against the bar, Wiegman then made a triple substitution at the break, Greenwood being replaced by Niamh Charles, Daly coming off for Russo and Kelly entering the fray, with James moving into a more central position.

Lauren James (right) in action against Portugal (Martin Rickett/PA)
Lauren James (right) in action against Portugal (Martin Rickett/PA)

A more lively showing from the hosts followed, but they remained unable to break the deadlock, with Lucy Bronze heading against the post and Russo to the fore amid a series of opportunities.

Wiegman highlighted the creation of chances and said that while finishing had been “a little problem” on Saturday it was “not a worry”, and also stressed that “in some positions it’s really tight” with regard to the potential decisions she will make about the starting line-up for the Haiti game.

When asked if she had come away from the Portugal match with more questions or more answers, she said: “Oh, more answers – and answers already give another question of course because we always want to improve.

“We are always thinking ‘where are we now, how do we want to improve, what do we need?’ And then we also think of course about who the next opponent is.”