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So who is going to the World Cup?
It was an underwhelming end to the international break as Wiegman approaches the final decisions for her England squad
England wrapped up their final international break before the World Cup with a penalty shoot out win over Brazil at Wembley followed by a first ever loss under Wiegman against Australia at Brentford. This was the last chance for Sarina Wiegman to see her players in England action before she picks a 23 player squad for the tournament.
With less than 4 months to go until England get their campaign underway in Brisbane, who will be making the plane?
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By my count there are already 15 players who are guaranteed spots as part of Wiegman’s squad. All eleven who started against Brazil will be going, with the starting line up there feeling like Wiegman’s starting line up throughout the World Cup, with the exception of Millie Bright playing ahead of Jess Carter when fit. It seems like Lauren James has gazumped Chloe Kelly to that free right wing spot but the Euro 2022 final goal scorer will certainly go as will Rachel Daly and Ellie Roebuck.
Mary Earps - Sarina Wiegman’s undisputed number one, Earps made the first serious error in her time under Wiegman as she spilled the ball at Andressa Alves’ feet to allow Brazil to equalise in injury time. Her penalty shoot out heroics will have been a big confidence boost however ahead of the World Cup.
Ellie Roebuck - Previously England’s anointed number one in waiting, Roebuck is yet to quite recapture the form she found prior to the calf injury which allowed Earps to sneak in ahead of her. Still realistically England’s second best goalkeeper with plenty of big game experience despite being only 23 years old.
Leah Williamson - Wiegman’s captain and all-rounder. Williamson’s versatility this season has only increased with Arsenal’s injury issues seeing her used as a 6 and an 8 in midfield as well as playing as a right-sided centre-back and left-sided centre-back. Always looks at her best with a confident defender alongside her with the errors against Australia a reminder of that.
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Millie Bright - There is a slightly worrying asterisk around Bright’s name for England. When fit, she is an automatic name on the team sheet having featured in 27 of Wiegman’s 30 matches in charge prior to this international break. However, a knee injury sustained against Lyon in the UWCL has left an indeterminate amount of time around her recovery, with the Chelsea centre-back pictured on crutches over the Easter weekend. Presuming she is available for the World Cup, and Wiegman seems confident she will be, there is no doubt she plays.
Lucy Bronze - Despite a set of not altogether impressive performances at Barcelona this season Lucy Bronze remains England’s undisputed right back option. She’s built up a strong relationship with Lauren James who looks set to be playing in front of her on the pitch in July.
Alex Greenwood - The main beneficiary in the change in perception of Rachel Daly from fullback to striker. Greenwood appears to have become Wiegman’s first choice in the position despite playing at centre-back for her club Manchester City. Her natural left-footedness and ability from dead balls are a big plus.
Jess Carter - Carter has not forced her way into England’s starting XI but it seems clear that Wiegman has a lot of respect for her. The fact she can play in any position across the back four is a bonus and despite not playing as many minutes for Chelsea this season as she did last, she seems to have forced her way back into the team in South West London too. One of the few players who managed to look good even as England lost their first game under Wiegman, and she missed only four minutes of the two matches in the past week.
Keira Walsh - Probably the best footballer in the squad right now and one of the best central midfielders in the world.
Georgia Stanway - It is easy to forget sometimes that Stanway is only 24. Her summer move to Bayern Munich seems to only have improved her. She looked tired during both matches this international break but will hopefully be rejuvenated by the time the World Cup comes around
Ella Toone - The back up to Fran Kirby at the Euros but with Kirby AWOL through injury once again, she looks to have become the first choice. Her club relationship with Russo is an added bonus.
Lauren Hemp - It hasn’t been the best season of Lauren Hemp’s career but an undisputed starter for England. She sometimes appears more reserved in an England shirt than she does in a Manchester City one and England could do with her finding some form ahead of the Euros
Lauren James - With Beth Mead injured, a gap opened up on England’s right hand side and Lauren James has grabbed it. Unpredictable, talented and physical, James is everything you want in a winger who draws defenders towards her. Occasionally her decision making abilities drop as she becomes frustrated in matches but looks to be England’s first choice on the right now.
Chloe Kelly - Would probably have been the favourite to take over Mead’s position until Lauren James roared back from a season missed through injury. Certainly a player who revels in big moments as her winning penalty at Wembley showed and looks likely to continue with her ‘super sub’ role at the World Cup.
Alessia Russo - She was the heir apparent to Ellen White’s throne last summer with her performances off the bench being one of the most impressive bits of the tournament. Still yet to make as much of an impact as a starter but looks clearly to be Wiegman’s first choice
Rachel Daly - The only England player from Euro 2022 to have effectively lost her starting position as a result of being seen again as a striker rather than in the left back position she occupied during the tournament. She looks set to be Alessia Russo’s back up at the World Cup but her versatility means we could see her pop up again at fullback.
This set of players feel on the cusp of making the squad. Depending on injuries and form over the next few months, these would be the favourites to take up the remaining slots.
Fran Kirby - When Wiegman raised the subject of Fran Kirby after the Australia loss it was easy to hear the ruefulness in her voice. England had badly missed Kirby’s creativity with the often injured player obviously one of Wiegman’s favourites. It seems feasible that Kirby does not make it to the World Cup which would be a big blow to an England team who would be left without three of their starting attackers from Euro 2022. There is no doubt that if she is fit, she flies.
Hannah Hampton - The third goalkeeper at Euro 2022, Hampton has spent time out of the England squad due to personal issues. With her return to the fold this month, and assuming all went well behind the scenes, you would have to suspect she travels as the third goalkeeper again.
Esme Morgan - Given the nod to start against Australia ahead of Lucy Parker or Maya Le Tissier, it would appear like Morgan is thought of highly within the England camp. Like Carter, her ability to play across the back four is a big benefit but she does sometimes look a bit uncertain when called upon to do her defensive duties
Maya LeTissier - LeTissier has arguably had the most impressive season of all the English centre-backs having fitted seamlessly into a Manchester United defence that has conceded the fewest goals and fewest expected goals allowed in the WSL. Wiegman seems less convinced, however, having only played her twice, both times at right-back.
Niamh Charles - Charles is another player whose versatility might help her get on the plane. For Chelsea this season she has played in both fullback positions as well as on the wing and up front. Occasionally seen as a liability defensively, she has very strong numbers when it comes to tackles won and aerial duels, and there is no doubt about her work ethic
Laura Coombs - Having received a deserved return to the England squad, we haven’t actually seen much of Coombs but she feels like logical cover for England’s thin midfield. Her late runs into the box certainly fit the way that Stanway and Toone play whilst her club relationship with Hemp could be a big benefit.
Jess Park - Potentially depends on Kirby’s fitness. Wiegman sees Park as a number 10 even if I feel like she’s still playing her best football out wide. However, the decision to bring Daly on for Toone against Australia gives the impression that Wiegman isn’t overawed by any of these midfield options.
Katie Robinson - One of the surprise selections from Wiegman over the past year but Robinson has been a consistent pick and it feels reasonable to assume she therefore makes the World Cup squad. Useful back up on the right wing with her pace but still very raw.
Stuck on the tarmac
Lotte Wubben-Moy - Wubben-Moy only made this England squad as a result of Millie Bright’s withdrawal so looks firmly down the pecking order. She might have a chance to make a late push for the squad if Williamson is going to continue playing in midfield for Arsenal but a number of nervous performances this season seem to be counting against her.
Steph Houghton - As with Wubben-Moy, if you are lower down the list than LeTissier, Parker and Morgan, not to mention Carter, Williamson, Bright and Greenwood, then you probably are not going to Australia. Houghton spoke out over the international break about her desire to gain some closure.
Beth Mead - Beth Mead seems notably more hopeful that she will make the World Cup than Sarina Wiegman does which probably is not a good sign. It would be hard to justify taking a player who won’t have played since December and might not even be fully fit, especially if it put her career at greater risk due to the further injury.
Beth England - Until this international break I would have said Beth England did not have a chance at all of making the squad. Now I am not so sure. England has not been called up to the squad since September despite having scored five goals in seven WSL starts for Chelsea and Tottenham. Her goals per 90 minutes ratio is only bettered by Bunny Shaw. If Wiegman does not take England, given how underwhelming Russo and Daly have been, it would be a mistake.
Emily Ramsey - Ramsey had been the stand out goalkeeper in the WSL this season until she picked up an ankle injury. With it looking like she might miss the rest of the season, even if she was fit enough for the World Cup, it seems unlikely that she will leapfrog Hampton.
Sandy MacIver - Perhaps MacIver thought she might dislodge Ellie Roebuck this season at Manchester City but it hasn’t happened and she simply does not play enough minutes of football to justify a squad spot.
Lucy Parker - Wiegman obviously admires Parker but an inopportune injury back in October saw her miss out on a chance to make an impression in the England squad. One for the future rather than one for this summer.
Gabby George - Was always an outsider for the squad despite a solid season with Everton. George would potentially be an extra left-footed option but given she was not called up when Alex Greenwood withdrew, she doesn’t seem to be in Wiegman’s plans.
Demi Stokes - A combination of injury and illness means that Stokes hasn’t started for City since November.
Jordan Nobbs - Her January move to Aston Villa earned her call ups but not many minutes for England. She’s scored four goals in eight appearances for Villa and there’s no doubting the quality is still there but she continues to lack some of the defensive robustness that Wiegman will expect from a midfielder.
Katie Zelem - If she were to miss out, Zelem could justifiably feel very hard done by. She has not missed a minute for Manchester United this season and has the third most assists in the WSL. But she still doesn’t seem to be able to properly break into this England team.
Ebony Salmon - Regularly called up to camps without getting many minutes, Salmon’s season in the NWSL has only just begun but you would suspect she needs an astounding next month or so to get the nod with Wiegman only calling up two strikers to the most recent camp.
Nikita Parris - Parris has managed to get more minutes at United than she did at Arsenal but has hardly set the league alight. Pretty clear that Wiegman would be happier to go with younger options at this point, even though she did rely on Parris to help see games out at the Euros.
There’s such an incredibly long list of English players in and around this potential squad that we could still have a few surprises yet. Who do you think will be making the cut this summer?