It has been almost a year since England last played a competitive game and a lot has changed since.
Almost all of England’s backstage staff are gone, with head coach Phil Neville now at Inter Miami in MLS and Bev Priestman in charge of rivals Canada.
Sarina Wiegman takes over in the fall, which means Hege Riise will pick the English side for their friendly against Northern Ireland. But what will these eleven be? We asked former England internationals Lianne Sanderson and Sue Smith to choose their best lineup from the selected team.
Sanderson: (diamond 4-4-2): Roebuck; Bronze, Houghton, Williamson, Greenwood; Walsh; Scott, Nobbs; Kelly; White, England.
Smith: (4-3-3): Roebuck; Bronze, Houghton, Williamson, Greenwood; Walsh, Scott, Stanway, Kelly, White, Hemp.
Goalkeeper: Sanderson and Smith: Roebuck
Sanderson: I should go get Ellie Roebuck. She has more experience with goalies out of the three. These types of games will enrich his international experience, which will be crucial.
Black-smith: Ellie’s been there before. She’s very commanding, she’s very agile, some of the saves she’s made this season have been great, but trying to get into Hege Riise’s head is difficult.
Defenders: Sanderson and Smith agree on the Back Four
Black-smith: You would assume it would be Steph Houghton and Millie Bright if Bright was in good shape. I’d love to see Leah Williamson come in there, she’s very good as a defender and very good with the ball. I would go with Leah but Lotte Wubben-Moy is playing well.
Sanderson: Leah was a teammate of mine, she’s very versatile and she’s still so young and yet so impressive. Because she is so comfortable on the ball, she is often asked to play in other positions, but I would like to see her next to Steph for England.
Black-smith: Millie went through a patch where she was not at her best and received criticism and came back stronger. I hated playing against her, she’s so strong one-on-one. She’s in the shape of her life, it’s a shame she’s hurt.
Environments: Sanderson wants a diamond, Smith is a fan of a three
Sanderson: I would go for a diamond midfielder. Keira Walsh would protect, Jill Scott has to start and captain in her 150th appearance and I will have Jordan Nobbs by her side.
I want to see a No.10 and I wish Chloe Kelly was in that position. She will play in this dangerous role by picking up the ball, hitting the players and playing those balls. England have so many good players that I would like to see so many of them playing at the same time.
Black-smith: I have to go with Jill Scott, I want her to have her 150th cap and not because she is a good companion. She still has it even though she is nearing the end of her career. You forget how technically good she is.
I will have Keira Walsh to protect the four backs and I have to go with Georgia Stanway. I know what she’s capable of and I know she can unlock defenses. Will Hege Riise tweak the system? She said it would be similar to Phil but we’ll see.
The midfielder is a position threatened by others heading to the Olympics. Ignore the players who say they play one game at a time, they will have the Olympics in mind. When you have players as good as Kim Little, Caroline Weir (both in Scotland) and Sophie Ingle (in Wales) competing for this Slot Machine, it will create competition.
Attackers: Sanderson go two up, Smith want an all Man City three
Sanderson: Ebony Salmon will be great to come off the bench and earn it. If Fran Kirby was in good shape I would put her up there with Beth England but when you have center forwards like we do with England – whether it’s Fran, Beth or the excellent Ellen White – I just believe that ‘you have to play them at the same time.
Black-smith: I would go for the Manchester City front row. They have played so well together this season and have such momentum. Chloe Kelly was the star for me, even comparing her to the big names in Man City. Ellen White is still at the top of her game and Lauren Hemp is back and will be causing trouble.