Did England’s draw with Portugal provide more questions than answers?

  • By Emma Sanders
  • BBC Sport at Stadium MK

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England have didn’t win their final two video games having gone 30 matches unbeaten previous to defeat by Australia

England journey to Australia in 4 days’ time for the Women’s World Cup, however a disappointing goalless draw with Portugal leaves lots for supervisor Sarina Wiegman to ponder.

Team choice, a most well-liked system and whether or not injured gamers will return to health in time for the competitors, are among the many key questions because the Lionesses’ preparation ramps up.

Wiegman’s beginning XI for England’s ultimate send-off sport on dwelling soil raised eyebrows when she chosen Aston Villa striker Rachel Daly forward of standard quantity 9 Alessia Russo.

There was additionally a beginning place for Chelsea’s gifted winger Lauren James, whereas in-form Manchester City ahead Chloe Kelly sat on the bench.

There had been additionally tweaks in defence as Wiegman assessed her choices with out her injured captain Millie Bright. Centre-back Alex Greenwood performed left-back for 45 minutes, whereas Esme Morgan and Jess Carter fashioned an unfamiliar partnership.

But a flat efficiency missing fluidity and targets, recommended there are nonetheless loads of choices Wiegman must make earlier than England’s World Cup opener in opposition to Haita on 22 July.

Asked whether or not she felt there have been more questions than solutions, Wiegman mentioned: “Oh, more answers. And answers already give another question of course because we always want to improve.”

Yet regardless of Wiegman’s insistence, there stays key locations nonetheless up for grabs and the Dutchwoman appears no nearer to realizing her beginning XI.

Have England discovered their quantity 9 but?

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Alessia Russo got here on within the second half, whereas Rachel Daly began up entrance

One of the largest speaking factors heading into the match is who shall be England’s quantity 9.

During their profitable Euro 2022 marketing campaign, Ellen White – now retired – began each sport, with Russo offering an impression off the bench as one among a number of ‘super-subs.’

Russo was the plain successor as England’s main centre-forward, however she has lacked consistency since final summer time and completed beneath Golden Boot winner Daly and Tottenham striker Bethany England within the Women’s Super League scoring charts this season.

It means the door is broad open for a beginning spot, with Daly given her alternative in opposition to Portugal.

The Aston Villa striker didn’t take it, squandering a number of possibilities within the first half, earlier than Russo made an impression within the second half following her introduction.

But with each strikers failing to search out the web in opposition to a Portugal aspect ranked 17 locations decrease and who’ve certified for his or her first World Cup, is Wiegman any nearer to realizing her most well-liked quantity 9?

“We haven’t made decisions yet. It’s close. There is a real competition going on and we have Rachel Daly, we have Alessia Russo and we have Beth England,” mentioned Wiegman.

“I’m not closer [to knowing], no. I think in some positions it’s really tight. This is not the time to make final decisions as we have some weeks to go.”

Is James higher suited as a quantity 10?

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Lauren James (centre) might provide competitors for Manchester United’s Ella Toone in midfield

Another choice dealing with Wiegman is easy methods to get the very best out of James, who’s broadly thought-about one of the vital gifted gamers of her era, albeit slightly unorthodox.

There is stiff competitors in broad ahead positions with Manchester City duo Kelly and Lauren Hemp proving their price on loads of events beforehand – most notably when Kelly got here off the bench to attain the successful objective within the Euro 2022 ultimate.

James was harmful in opposition to Portugal, linking up properly with Lucy Bronze within the first half, although failing to provide the ultimate ball when it mattered.

However, a change at half-time from Wiegman, dropping James right into a deeper quantity 10 place, appeared to get the very best out of her as she typically mixed with Russo and winger Kelly.

The greatest likelihood of the match got here through James when she slid it by way of to Russo to around the keeper – the striker denied solely by the brilliance of a goalline block by Ana Borges.

So what system will Wiegman use on the World Cup and is James’ function maybe more efficient within the center than out broad?

“You can tell that she can play on the side, but she can also play on the centre. She’s tight on the ball, she’s very powerful, and has vision,” mentioned Wiegman.

“I think we could see someone who actually did really good things, and I also think you could see in some moments that she could make some decisions a little quicker. So we’ll review that with the team later.”

Are England prepared for the World Cup?

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Millie Bright was dominated out of the pleasant with Portugal attributable to a knee harm which has saved her absent since March

With a number of gamers already lacking by way of harm – captain Leah Williamson, ahead Beth Mead and midfielder Fran Kirby – the remaining query marks round key centre-back Bright’s health is a priority.

It solely provides to Wiegman’s conundrums, which didn’t really feel as complicated heading into Euro 2022.

England’s kind has additionally dipped barely. Their 30-game unbeaten run ended with defeat by Australia previous to their draw with the Portuguese at Stadium MK.

There are appropriate explanations for this together with harm and rustiness following a month with no aggressive match for the reason that finish of the WSL season.

But had been England higher ready final summer time than they’re now?

“I don’t relate that to each other. I think the team has changed so there’s another team dynamic now because we have other people in and different qualities. It’s a new situation,” added Wiegman.

“We proceed to develop our fashion of play, with the gamers we’ve got, and that is how we method it. I believe we’re in an excellent place.

“This sport was very useful, though we’re dissatisfied we did not rating a objective. You can inform that we actually know what we need to do and that is actually what we’re engaged on.”

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