There is an expectation for the Lionesses to emulate the success of last summer’s European Championship victory at the World Cup. However, Sarina Wiegman‘s side is much changed from the one that beat Germany at Wembley last year due to injuries and retirements.
Captain Leah Williamson, star forward Beth Mead and Fran Kirby all miss out due to injury, whilst Jill Scott and Ellen White have now retired. Wiegman resisted calls for Steph Houghton to be recalled and Millie Bright will wear the armband in Williamson’s absence.
England’s strength is their wingers which consist of Lauren James, Lauren Hemp and Chloe Kelly whose goal secured them European Championship glory last year.
The Lionesses lost their first game under Wiegman in April this year, a 2-0 defeat to Australia who are co-hosting the tournament. Since then England has endured back-to-back 0-0 draws with Portugal and Canada. Three games without scoring is not great preparation for a World Cup and it will be down to Alessia Russo, Rachel Daly and Bethany England to fill the void of White who was the top goalscorer at the 2019 World Cup.
Back in 2019, England had a run to the semi-finals under Phil Neville, where they were eventually defeated by the United States Women’s National Team. The USWNT went on to win the tournament in France and beat Wiegman’s Netherlands in the final. Wiegman has since had success with the Lionesses and now needs to go one further in the World Cup.
England’s opening game against Haiti -who are playing in their first-ever World Cup- should be no problem. They will be expected to also beat Denmark who went out in the group stage at the European Championship last year. China is the reigning Asian Cup champion and will be the team in the group that the Lionesses need to watch out for.
The Lionesses should easily win their group. However, they will then have a tough road in the knockout stages, with Germany, Australia, France, Brazil and Canada all on their side of the draw. Even if England get to the final then they will likely face the USA or Spain in the final. With the players that Wiegman is missing, expectations have been dampened.
Lucy Bronze has represented England at both the 2015 and 2019 World Cups and knows the pain of being knocked out. The defender told the BBC:
“Every World Cup I’ve played in, we’ve been so close. I’ve actually never watched a World Cup final because we always get knocked out in the semi-finals and I just don’t like it.”
Bronze -who now plays her club football with Barcelona alongside Kiera Walsh- will be looking to taste success at a major tournament with the Lionesses again.
Wiegman is confident her side can win in Australia and New Zealand despite their injuries. Speaking to ITV, the manager said “Of course, we have a dream, we go there to win every game we play, to go as far as possible. The dream is of course to win the tournament.”
The Lionesses begin their World Cup campaign against Haiti this Saturday, July 22, kick-off at 10:30.
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