Talking points as England fly out ahead of Women’s World Cup

Talking points as England fly out ahead of Women’s World Cup

England fly out for the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand on Wednesday.

Sarina Wiegman’s European champions will open their campaign against Haiti in Brisbane on July 22, and also take on Denmark and China in Group D.

Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the talking points surrounding the Lionesses as they head Down Under.

Those not on the plane

Leah Williamson in action for England (Bradley Collyer/PA)
Leah Williamson has been ruled out of the World Cup by an ACL injury (Bradley Collyer/PA)

A year on from their Euros triumph on home soil, England are certainly serious contenders for glory this summer – but it will have to be achieved without some very notable names that are missing from the squad due to injury. Those not on the plane include a sidelined trio who were key in the Euros-winning side – skipper Leah Williamson and Beth Mead, both out after suffering ACL damage, and Fran Kirby, recovering from a knee issue of her own. Other absentees are record-scorer Ellen White and 161-cap Jill Scott, who each retired after the Euros final.

Bright’s fitness

Millie Bright during an ngland training session (Martin Rickett/PA)
Millie Bright has been building up her fitness after knee surgery (Martin Rickett/PA)

With Williamson ruled out, fellow centre-back Bright has been named captain of the squad, but she has been building up her fitness herself after sustaining a knee injury while playing for Chelsea in March and subsequently undergoing surgery. While the 29-year-old was not involved in Saturday’s 0-0 warm-up match against Portugal at Stadium MK, she has stressed her confidence of being ready for the Haiti game. The contest in Milton Keynes saw goalkeeper Mary Earps skipper the team, while Esme Morgan and Jess Carter started in central defence, with Alex Greenwood at left-back.

Strikers

Alessia Russo in action against Portugal (Martin Rickett/PA)
Alessia Russo in action against Portugal (Martin Rickett/PA)

A definite source of intrigue is who might spearhead England’s attack at this tournament. Last summer, when Wiegman had the same starting XI throughout the Euros, it was White, with Alessia Russo making for an impressively effective replacement from the bench. On Saturday, Women’s Super League Golden Boot winner Rachel Daly started at centre-forward, with Russo – the division’s player of the year, who has just joined Arsenal after leaving Manchester United – coming on for her at half-time. Both players were unable to net despite having a number of chances. Wiegman, who also has Bethany England to call upon as a striker, described that as having been “a little problem’” but “not a worry”.

The rest of the attack

Lauren James in action against Portugal (Martin Rickett/PA)
Lauren James (right) has made 11 senior England appearances (Martin Rickett/PA)

Wiegman’s starting front three on Saturday also included Lauren Hemp on the left and on the right – where Mead was so potent last summer – Lauren James. Changes at the interval then saw Chloe Kelly, the matchwinner as a substitute in the Euros final, come on and exciting Chelsea 21-year-old James switch to a deeper, central position as Ella Toone came off. The attack full stop is an area of the team generating considerable interest as Wiegman ponders her selection for July 22, having said on Saturday she feels that “in some positions it’s really tight.”

Preparation

Wiegman watches on during the Portugal game (George Tewkesbury/PA)
Wiegman’s side will play another warm-up match behind closed doors against Canada on July 14 (George Tewkesbury/PA)

Following the weekend’s send-off fixture, the only other match England are scheduled to play before the World Cup starts is a behind-closed-doors game against Canada on July 14. While Wiegman admitted ahead of the Portugal fixture that she would ideally have liked more warm-up game time, she described the schedule in place, with the travel involved, as “the best possible preparation we can have”, declaring herself “satisfied”, and has since said she feels England are “in a very good place”.