We are back Stateside for another edition of the 2019 SheBelieves Cup. Always one of our highlights of the football calendar, the tournament rarely disappoints both in terms of the football on the pitch and adventures (or logistical hurdles) off it.
England return alongside the hosts while two new faces join the fold. With Germany and France electing not to return this year, Japan and Brazil make their SheBelieves bow. This will give all four teams the chance to come up against 4 sides with very different styles of football and could prove the perfect challenge ahead of this summer’s World Cup.
There will be many tests to overcome both on and off the pitch over the next week. Three games in seven days is tough enough but with the tournament being played across 3 states – Chester, Pennsylvania; Nashville, Tennessee; and Tampa, Florida – long travel times and inconsistent weather will play a part. Recovery will be key as much as anything as each team’s endurance will be tested to the max.
After getting to know his squad over the last year, bringing in some new additions, Phil Neville has pretty much gone for his tried and tested 23. Bar some notable omissions through injury – Millie Bright and Jill Scott in particular as well as Jade Moore – this is more or less the squad that you would think is heading to France in the summer.
The absence of Bright – half of his first-choice central defensive partnership – gives Neville the chance to look at his other possibilities. After Anita Asante got injured last year, Abbie McManus stepped in to that role. However, Leah Williamson has come on leaps and bounds over the last 12 months and is having a fantastic season with Arsenal. Gemma Bonner is also another option, having played in that position for Liverpool, but she has been at right back for the majority of this season for Manchester City.
The defensive midfield options are looking a little bit sparser. With Moore not yet fully fit, you can imagine that much of the responsibility will fall on Keira Walsh over the next week. Neville has also tried Birmingham City’s Lucy Staniforth in that role, against Austria last November, but it is not her natural game and would hinder her influence.
Up front, Jodie Taylor and Ellen White are both back in the fold after missing the last camps of 2019 to injury. Both provide strong scoring options up front with White’s work rate a huge asset to any side.
Brazil – 27th February
Brazil come into this tournament on the back of four straight defeats, albeit in friendlies. One of those losses was at the hands of the Lionesses, suffering a 1-0 defeat in Nottingham last October. In all honesty, it could and should have been a heavier loss with England wasting their chances. That being said, I think everyone expects a stronger Brazil to emerge in this tournament. The Brazilians pose a strong threat for any defence with their attacking playing style and pacy forward play. Formiga, at the age of 40, is still an influential presence while Marta continues to dazzle.
USA – 2nd March
England have only beaten the USA once on home soil. That came back in 2017 through Ellen White’s 89th minute winner. Last year, they faced each other for the trophy in the final game with the Lionesses falling to a 1-0 defeat.
The winners of last year’s tournament will be looking to overcome a recent minor blip to retain their trophy. After going unbeaten for the whole of 2018, they lost to France 3-1 at the start of the year before earning a 1-0 win over Spain a few days later.
Japan – 5th March
The last meeting between England and Japan will definitely stick in all Lionesses’ fans minds after the cruellest of defeats in the 2015 World Cup semi-final. Revenge will be on the cards as well as a perfect opportunity to get in some homework ahead of the World Cup group tie between these two sides this summer. After a poor Tournament of Nations in August last year, Japan are now undefeated in their last six matches, including a 4-1 victory over Norway in November.
The BBC is showing all of England’s 2019 SheBelieves Cup fixtures:
BBC Four: Brazil v England (21.00 GMT; 27th February)
BBC Two: USA v England (21.30 GMT; 2nd March)
BBC Four: England v Japan (22.15 GMT; 5th March)
You can also follow our Twitter and Instagram channels as we cover the tournament over the next 7 days.