Brisbane was the stage for an edgy night as England narrowly avoided elimination against Nigeria. It took a nerve-wracking penalty shoot-out for the Lionesses, reduced to ten after Lauren James saw red, to eventually see off a spirited Nigeria and reach the World Cup quarter-finals.
Expect the unpredictable seems to be the new mantra for Sarina Wiegman’s side. After a vivacious performance in front of a partisan Adelaide crowd, the Lionesses progressed to the Round of 16 in style with a 6-1 victory over China. A brace from Lauren James and goals from Alessia Russo, Lauren Hemp, Chloe Kelly and Rachel Daly completed the rout. The Chinese pulled a goal back through a controversially awarded penalty that Wang Shuang duly converted.
With just 50 days until the start of the FIFA Women’s World Cup this summer, Sarina Wiegman has named her 23-player England squad ahead of the trip to Australia. Bethany England returns to the fold, while six players – Esme Morgan, Niamh Charles, Katie Zelem, Laura Coombs, Lauren James and Katie Robinson – will be part of a major tournament for the first time.
If there was any doubt about whether England’s form would dip after a prolonged break, it was swiftly put to bed on Thursday night. A 4-0 victory saw Sarina Wiegman’s side sweep past Korea Republic as they mounted their defence of the Arnold Clark Cup. Korea Republic’s manager, Colin Bell, called the Lionesses “the best team in the world at the moment” as goals from Georgia Stanway, Chloe Kelly, Alessia Russo and Lauren James sealed the three points.
Games do not come much bigger than this – the European Champions against the World Champions in front of a sold-out Wembley under the lights. Lionesses’ manager, Sarina Wiegman [SW], and newly-crowned Player of. the Year, Beth Mead [BM] sat down with the media ahead of another major challenge for the England side.
“You never get bored with winning,” stated an elated Sarina Wiegman as her England team maintained their unbeaten run to book a coveted spot at the 2023 FIFA World Cup. A 2-0 victory against a resilient Austrian outfit saw the Lionesses top Group D with a game to spare.
The Lionesses return to competitive action this afternoon for the first time following their European Championship winning summer. With retirements and injuries, Sarina Wiegman has made changes to her squad, with Lauren James, Ebony Salmon and Jordan Nobbs all coming in.
It was a night beyond any England fans’ imaginations. Sitting in the stadium, soaking in the atmosphere after the final whistle, it was hard not be filled with wonder about what we had just witnessed. For Sarina Wiegman and her Lionesses had just produced one of the most stunning performances in the competition to sweep aside a nation that will have been considered one of the strongest.
“Incredible. There are no more words. This is unbelievable,” lauded Sarina Wiegman as she sat in the press room after watching her England side open Euro 2022 at Old Trafford.
The same emotions will have been felt by many. Wednesday was a night like no other. The reception at the start, the booming renditions of Sweet Caroline, the 68,000 or so people singing and cheering along. It was one of those special moments, one to add to those events that imprint themselves in your memory for life.
We’re used to managers and players playing down big or notable fixtures. “It’s just another game” they’ll say, “We’ll focus on ourselves”. But there is no denying that tomorrow’s friendly is going to be something special with it being the first time that England manager, Sarina Wiegman, will face her old side and homeland, the Netherlands.