When the next Women's World Cup kicks off, how England could line up and who the favourites are
Few English fans will have noticed as Women’s Euros fever swept the nation, but it was only one of several continental tournaments taking place in July.
The USA, Brazil, South Africa and Papua New Guinea have also lifted silverware, and of that quartet it is the Americans’ win that Sarina Wiegman will have noted.
England’s Euros mastermind has only ever lost two matches in tournament competition, the 2019 World Cup final and, on penalties, a Tokyo Olympics quarter-final. On both occasions the team that defeated her native Netherlands was the USA.
The world No 1-ranked nation went on to be beaten by Canada in the semis in Japan but gained their revenge last month beating the Olympic champs in Mexico to lift the Concacaf W Championship.
The USA have been rebuilding under Vlatko Andonovski, with new blood introduced alongside the veterans of France 2019. Come the 2023 Women’s World Cup, joint-hosted by Australia and New Zealand next August, the US will again be the team to beat.
Wiegman will be hoping it proves third time lucky for her, and Andonovski will be wary of an England side emboldened by finally lifting a major trophy after three successive semi-finals.
England will also have had a further year of Wiegman’s coaching – it seems remarkable that it is less than 12 months since she took over a team that was drifting towards mediocrity with four wins and nine defeats from their previous 14 matches.
Under Wiegman they are 20 games unbeaten winning 18. They will, as the coach accepted, be among the favourites in Australia.
Wiegman did point out England need to qualify first, but they need only one win from matches against Austria away on September 3 (tricky) and Luxembourg at Stoke three days later. England won the away tie 10-0 so qualification can be assumed.
A relatively young team England should get better. Of the 17 involved at Wembley on Sunday only Jill Scott (35) and Ellen White (33) are over the age of 30, though Lucy Bronze and Rachel Daly will be 31 when the World Cup starts.
Wiegman has shown that once she makes her mind up she trusts her XI but some evolution is likely. Alessia Russo should displace White as the focal point of the attack. That may, because of the understanding honed as teammates, accelerate a switch in roles between Russo’s Manchester United colleague Ella Toone and Fran Kirby, with the latter becoming the impact substitute.
Matchwinner Chloe Kelly will also push for a starting place, though it won’t be easy to dislodge Beth Mead or Lauren Hemp.
The position most up for grabs is left-back, but there are few obvious challengers to Daly, whose ability to fill that role for England in between leading the forward line for her US club Houston Dash is remarkable.
Alex Greenwood, now a centre-half at club level, could reclaim the spot or perhaps Manchester United’s summer signing from Brighton, Maya Le Tissier, could emerge, though she normally pays on the right. She has the height Wiegman likes in her defenders, and versatility.
A southern hemisphere winter will suit England and there will be familiarity in the locations. Besides the US other non-European contenders will be Canada – coached by Englishwoman Bev Priestman and very hard to beat, and co-hosts Australia, who knocked Great Britain out of the Olympics and have, in Chelsea’s Sam Kerr, women’s football’s best goalscorer.
From Europe the leading rivals will be France, Spain, especially if Alexia Putellas has regained fitness, Sweden, though age is not on their side, and, of course, a German side eager for revenge.