All talking points as England wrap up their Euro 2022 preparations with a 4-0 win over Switzerland, while Sarina Wiegman says her side are in a “really good place”.
England’s deep strength is paying off
Once again England’s strength in depth was evident. So much so that, for a third game in a row, their second-half performance completely eclipsed the first.
Undoubtedly, all three opponents suffered significant drops in the 45 seconds, but that was partly down to England’s energizing impact players.
The three warm-up games produced a stalemate heading into the break, with a total of 10 goals scored after the break, seven of which were scored by substitutes.
The bench produces the desired effect, but getting the mix right in the starting formation is more complex than ever. In every friendly match played in June, England’s most influential players have often started on the bench.
This is not necessarily a defect. Sarina Wiegman has created an environment in which all players feel valued, and the competition for places speaks to the hunger and desire of individuals, who compete for more positions than the manager can offer.
Arguably, this gives England an added element of surprise – the team doesn’t pick each other, it’s unpredictable. Chloe Kelly came off the bench to great effect against Switzerland, assisting Jill Scott’s goal, but is a capable starter. The same can be said for Ella Toone’s contribution against the Dutch.
A healthy rivalry is good for morale – although it’s still unclear which England’s best XI is. Or rather, which 11 players complement each other best from the get-go.
Some names – Leah Williamson for example – are nailed down initially, but question marks remain. Even in Williamson’s case, such is her versatility, it’s hard to know where she’s best placed in this hugely talented group.
What is certain, based on England’s dominance and control of games under Weigman, is that this team is well equipped to go far in the competition. What may be the difference, however, is whether decision-making over key personnel, at key moments, can make England the full tournament package.
Given Ellen White’s goalscoring prowess at international level – a record difficult to dispute – one would think there is little danger left in the No.9 role.
However, White’s pre-tournament preparations met a stumbling block last week when she tested positive for Covid-19. This presented an opportunity for its supporting cast.
Alessia Russo seized her chance with both hands. After impressing from the bench against the Netherlands last week, she was rewarded with a starting spot against the Swiss.
It paid off. She was at the heart of the action from the start, acting as a link between the English attacking quartet. His runs were smart, but more than that, his movements helped others. Selflessly, she invited others to join in the attack and wasn’t afraid to do the dog’s job – hustle to get the ball back. She was then rewarded with a goal of her own.
She completed a wonderful flowing move, involving Leah Williamson and Rachel Daly, to put England ahead. The finish was thoughtful, deliberate. Manchester United’s most prolific player in 2021/22, she has every potential to be just as influential for England this summer.
At 23, his energy is contagious and perhaps more dynamic than that of White – 10 years his senior. Whether from the bench or from the start, Russo has a lot to offer this Lionesses side and should be used.
Second half demolition seals perfect preparation
Three games, three wins, no major injuries. If Carlsberg did a championship warm-up, it wouldn’t be far off what you could ask for.
England’s trio of wins ahead of Euro 2022 weren’t the most remarkable on paper, with Belgium and Switzerland in particular ranking just among the top 20 teams in the world and unlikely to get going. in the tournament next week.
But their 5-1 thrashing against the Netherlands, in which they had to come from behind for the first time since Wiegman took charge, raised eyebrows instead – not only beating the European champions title, but taking them to the cleaners.
The starters’ preparations had been much shorter than their opponents and Vivienne Miedema was only introduced after the hour mark as they sought to regulate their players’ minutes, but the psychological boost of a victory so imposing remains.
If it looks like England are in danger of peaking too soon, they’re not – for most of the first hour against Switzerland in that final warm-up game, they needed more pace in their game and creativity in midfield.
Of the 12 goals they scored in their warm-up games, only two came before half-time. And facing a pressing opponent they didn’t face often in the Netherlands last Friday, they found life uncomfortable at times and will need to be better in those situations if they reach the latter stages of this tournament.
There is still plenty to do for Wiegman and England over the next six days before they face Austria. But there’s also plenty of optimism to be drawn from a clean sweep of pre-tournament wins.
Wiegman: We are very well placed
After England struggled for almost an hour to find a breakthrough in Zurich, Sarina Wiegman said she felt her side still had work to do ahead of Wednesday’s Euro 2022 opener with Austria.
But she admitted her side, which have won 12 and drawn two of their 14 games in charge and conceded just three goals in that time, are in a “really good place” ahead of the tournament.
She said ITV: “It was a very good result, we scored a lot of goals in the second half which showed that we had a very fit team. They got tired, we brought in substitutes and that also showed again that we don’t play with 11 players, we have so many more in our squad and can make a change in the second half.
“We started well, we had three big chances at the start of the game, and it would have been easy to score those goals, but when we didn’t, they had chances and we have to do a bit better.
“We had to step up the game in the first half, the pace of the ball was too slow, then they can organize all the time. We did that better in the second half and they got more tired.
“We always have things to improve, I think we are in a very good position but it will show in the Euros. They are all friendlies, it is very nice to learn from them but it really starts on Wednesday next. We are in a very good place but we still need to improve a few things.”