In the Women’s England, the Lionesses defeated the world champion Americans at a sold-out Wembley on Friday, but four days later, the Czech Republic held them to a 0-0 draw. This week, England participated in two games that couldn’t have been more different from one another, reaching an extraordinary high before slightly coming back to earth.
They defeated the world champion U.S. women’s team on Friday in an exhilarating match of football that had spectators engaged throughout thanks to the dynamic attackers on display and, quite frankly, the shoddy defense that went along with it. Tuesday, however, was very different. The same uproar was not generated by a goalless draw against a Czech Republic team they were predicted to defeat neither in the outcome nor the performance.
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As England’s manager, Wiegman’s unblemished record was going to be put to the test as her team met the world champions during the international break. She did, however, come out with it intact: 24 games played, 21 victories, 3 ties, and 0 losses. It keeps England’s unbeaten streak at its longest, surpassing the 22 games Gareth Southgate’s team went without a loss from November 2020 to June 2022.
However, Wiegmann’s team did not win, so it does not make her a winner. The team’s ever-increasing confidence was greatly boosted by the triumph over the USWNT. It served as a test against one of the top teams in the world and was the ideal lead-up to the 2023 World Cup.
Even if the match against the Czech Republic wasn’t nearly as exciting or newsworthy, it was still crucial to play. Looking ahead to the competition next summer, there is no question that the Lionesses will encounter opponents who similarly frustrate them, therefore this game will be crucial to consider in developing game plans for those challenges.
Lauren James: Wiegman is not known for frequently altering her teams or giving out appearances merely for show. There was considerable surprise when the starting lineup for Tuesday night’s match against the Czech Republic was announced and Lauren James, a quick-footed 21-year-old from Chelsea, was there.
James lit up the pitch every time she touched the ball on what was to be her full England debut. It was as if she played with the idea that these opportunities are rare and she had to seize them.
Her play’s ingenuity and directness were a tremendous benefit against a difficult-to-break-down opposition, and when she rattled the post in the first minute, it nearly broke the scoreless tie. Even though her night was only a little over an hour long, she left her imprint throughout the brief time she was on the field.
Esme Morgan: After a solid start to the season with Manchester City, Esme Morgan was called up for Sarina Wiegman’s first camp as England’s head coach, and she had hopes of making her senior international debut. But football can be a harsh game, and those expectations were painfully dashed when a lower leg fracture rendered her inactive for a year.
Things came full circle this week after a quick forward. The 21-year-old was called up by Wiegman, and she came onto the field for her first England appearance in the second half of the draw with the Czech Republic. This was just a very beautiful moment for a fantastic young athlete and person who has worked so hard to get herself back here, as evidenced by Millie Bright’s smile, the player she was replacing.
The Losing Side:
Arsenal: In that regard, it might have been a good camp for England, but there were drawbacks as well. The majority of those occurred before the match against the United States when three players were forced to retire due to injuries.
It was said that Alessia Russo’s issue was just “minor,” and it is hoped that Lucy Parker’s muscle ailment won’t keep her from moving on for too long. Leah Williamson, the captain of England, is the third player to withdraw, but there is still no word on her. At this point in their tournament schedule, the loss for the Lionesses is unfortunate but not catastrophic. However, that is worrying for Arsenal.
The most challenging site for the Gunners to begin their Women’s Champions League group-stage campaign is away to Lyon, the current European champions and eight-time champions. As the season prepares to enter its busiest part, Williamson’s absence reduces the English team to just two center-backs due to Rafaelle, their Brazilian center-back, having recently fractured her foot. Williamson being out for an extended length of time would be a huge setback given how formidable of a bunch Jonas Eidevall’s team has in Europe.
Chloe Kelly: Chloe Kelly was the star of the summer, the player who is featured in the iconic photo of England’s victory at Euro 2022, and whose joy after scoring the game-winning goal made the front page of every newspaper the following morning. She is just one of several gifted wide players at Wiegman’s disposal, therefore it will be difficult for her to earn a starting spot on this squad before players like Lauren Hemp and Beth Mead.
Kelly had the opportunity to demonstrate her abilities right away at this camp because the front line had been adjusted to account for Russo’s absence. The 24-year-old was on both starting lineups, but he had trouble contributing to either of the games. There is no denying Kelly’s skill, and she will only work to demonstrate it more in the upcoming international window. After all, as stars like James begin to integrate, competition for those forward places only intensifies.
The Toone and Kirby Trials: The 2-1 victory over the United States by England was a significant outcome, but one of the clear problems that emerged from the match was Fran Kirby’s position and how she fits into Wiegman’s team. One potential fix for it was tested on Tuesday when Kirby and Ella Toone were both added to the starting XI.
The two have previously played together in World Cup qualifiers against lower-ranked opponents, against whom England has scored double digits, but not in contests against elite opponents since it upsets the balance of the midfield.
Although they haven’t previously advanced to a major tournament, the Czech Republic is a strong team, thus it was worthwhile to test the viability of playing both of these highly great playmakers against them. Unfortunately for the Lionesses, it wasn’t, proving that having two players on the field at once isn’t the ideal way to utilize Kirby.
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