The Lionesses are on the road for the first time since March 2020. Tonight, they travel to Caen to take on a notoriously tough, if depleted, French side. It will be a first chance for interim head coach, Hege Riise, to see her new charges take on a tier one opposition. Her squad announcement included a couple of surprises, with Karen Bardsley and Carly Telford returning to the fold. Niamh Charles was also called up, while Esme Morgan and Nikita Parris joined late. Captain Steph Houghton misses out through injury.

Riise spoke to the press before the game on a number of key areas:


What they are looking for in the game against France:

“What we’re aiming for is to have a good performance, to win both games. Meeting France is probably the best we can do right now. Meet up and see after a game, we can go back and see what we need to go further with. So, to deliver under pressure will be key because many players know that they play for an Olympic spot as well. We can’t hide that because that’s the reality.”


On the need to test themselves against strong opposition:

“Yeah, that was the reason that we really wanted this game. Not to risk anything, of course, but if possible to have a game. The reason for that is this group needs games. It’s been a long time since they have played for their country and the pride that they take in that. For us to play the best opponents is good to see how the players react, how we can build and go from there to Canada and to the next level as well.”


On whether any extra preparation is needed for the Lionesses’ first away trip in over a year:

“I don’t think so. We are travelling to St George’s Park and prepare there for a few days. And then we just fly out for for the game. And I feel like we don’t want to do anything different. We just try to replicate what’s coming and then don’t pay too much attention to changes.”


On the philosophy she is bringing to the Lionesses:

“It’s the same attacking principle that has been there for a while; same with the defensive principle. So it’s not much we have added, just a few things. I want to quickly turn and face up if possible, keep the possession. Be brave enough to turn, be brave enough to switch the field, and always look for an opportunity to play forward. And when we do so, be accurate in our movement and passing.”


On the return of Karen Bardsley and Carly Telford:

“In February, it was important for me to see all the talented young goalkeepers coming up. Now in this camp, we have two games, and it is important for me to see the experienced players as well. You know, in the Olympics, it will be tight, and the experience is also important. So, this is for Carly and Karen to show their experience coming into camp again.”


On Niamh Charles’ inclusion:

“I see the talent, the physicality that she has shown now growing into the game. Due to injury in Chelsea, she came on in the Champions League game and played more and more minutes in those games. And I’m excited. She’s growing into that game so to bring her in to see her in our environment was important for me.”


On Nikita Parris’ late call-up:

“It was good for us to have her in, even though she came in late. But she came with such an energy and she’s been a part of this team for a long time and a key player. So having her in gave us an opportunity to get her in the squad again and for us to see her closely in training and games coming up.”


On how Esme Morgan has settled into camp:

“First of all, it’s a pleasure to call up players late because they are so happy coming in. She’s been good. She came straight into the first session from the car and just testing and straight on the field! She’s doing well and of course we follow her as well, as we do with many players. She was the obvious choice for us when we had some injuries that could not play. She’s had a good attitude and quality.”

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