The 2023 Women’s World Cup is taking place in Australia and New Zealand between the 20th of July and the 20th of August. Current European champions England take on previous runners up China, Denmark who didn’t qualify for last year’s Euros and World Cup debutants Haiti in Group D. Here is my preview of the Lionesses’ chances at the World Cup along with who to watch out for as they look to make it two major tournaments in two years.
Sarina Wiegman and her assistant Arjan Veurink have only overseen the Lionesses for 18 months. Since the last World Cup England have gone through two head coaches and an interim boss.
In her early career, Wiegman was a schoolteacher before opting to move into full-time coaching in 2003. As a player, she became the first Dutch player to reach 100 caps after earning an international call up at the young age of 16.
She led the Netherlands to Euro 2017 success in their home country after only being appointed manager permanently six months beforehand then went on to finish runners-up to the USA at the 2019 World Cup in France.
Wiegman took over England in September 2021 and as little as ten months later guided the Lionesses to European glory in their own backyard in front of a record 87,192 fans.
The 53-year-old managed England to a 30-game unbeaten in all internationals, a run which only recently ended at the hands of a 2-0 defeat to the home nations in April
The Dutchwoman has won best FIFA Women’s Coach in 2017 and 2020 as well as UEFA Women’s Coach of the Year in 2022.
World Cup History
England reached the Quarter Finals of the tournament in 1995 but then failed to qualify again until 2007 when they equalled their Quarter Final achievement of eight years before. They will be looking to build on their Euros success after only finishing fourth last time round as well as going one better than their 3rd place in 2015.
Journey to Australia & New Zealand
The Lionesses qualified for their sixth World Cup finals with a game to spare topping Group D. It was a record-breaking World Cup qualifying campaign for Wiegman’s squad. They secured qualification as early as September last year with ten clean sheets and 80 goals the best in UEFA Women’s qualifying history.
Regardless of Wiegman experimenting with positions and line-ups, England beat top-ranked sides Germany, Canada and Spain on their way to the Arnold Clark Cup home invitational title in February.
Now a team built around controlling possession and dynamic attacking football a 20-0 battering of Latvia was the highlight of 68 qualifying goals without conceding in Wiegman’s first seven months in charge.
Players to watch
Keira Walsh: Widely regarded as one of the best in the world as a holding midfielder, her composure on the ball, footballing brain and vision will mean Kiera Walsh will no doubt be one of the first players on her manager’s team sheet.
She was part of the Great Britain squad at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics that narrowly lost out 4-3 to Australia in extra time.
After a memorable Euro 2022 her sensational performances which included Player of the Match in the final earned Walsh a world record transfer move to Barcelona for a fee of 400,000 only a month after the tournament had concluded guiding the Spanish giants to Champions League and La Liga double this season.
It ended an eight year spell at her beloved Manchester City where the 26-year-old won every domestic honour accumulating over 200 appearances.
Lauren Hemp: The Manchester City winger has been around the English topflight for years despite only being 22. Hemp was awarded England Young Player in 2017 after bursting onto the scene with Bristol City.
In her Women’s Fa Cup Final debut a year later, she announced her arrival on the big stage coming off the bench to score after signing for Manchester City earlier in the season.
She is a versatile part of the Lionesses squad even at youth level after winning a World Cup bronze with the U20s and experiencing the Olympics with Team GB.
A player who has gone from strength to strength for club and country and will look to make her mark on her first ever World Cup.
A shaky warm up despite beginning the year strong with two wins over Belgium and Italy along with a record-breaking win against Brazil on penalties in the Women’s Finalissima only to 5 days later lose their thirty game unbeaten run on home soil to Australia.
The Lionesses have failed to score in their last three games which could be a worry going into a major international tournament, especially after the retirement of legends Jill Scott and Ellen White since their Euro triumph and Beth Mead, Fran Kirby and Leah Williamson also missing out due to injury.
Beth Mead’s contributions will be a huge loss after playing a part in 25 of the Lionesses goals in the qualifying campaign scoring 13 and setting up a further 12.
England will also be without the scoring presence of legend Ellen White who announced her retirement after becoming top goal scorer surpassing Kelly Smith’s record with a hat trick in their record 20-0 victory over Latvia.
Defending champions USA will no doubt be the favourites however odds are in England’s favour as potentially if results go to plan the two sides won’t meet until the final.
We can’t hide away from the fact we have injuries to three of our key players and their characters will be missed in the dressing room but when it comes to major tournaments Wiegman shines with the opportunity for new heroes to take centre stage and light up the scene.
Their route through the group stage looks relatively clear despite being in one of the more competitive groups in the tournament with three sides in the top 15 of the world ranking. A potential challenge of Canada in the last 16 could prove a real test for the mentality and ambition of the squad however our pace and strength in midfield should be too much for them to handle.
Then onto the prospective of France in the quarters, Germany in the semis and USA in the final. After all this is the world cup, the biggest stage of all so some shocks will be expected along on the way.
It will be interesting to see whether Wiegman opts for the same tactics used at the Euros where she kept the same starting line-up for every game, looking to impact substitutes to change the dynamic of the game.
Six players making their major tournament debut
The unique and talented Lauren James missed out on the Euro 2022 squad after an injury hit season but after her performances for the WSL champions, it was hard to leave her out of the squad. She scored her first goal for England against South Korea as the Lionesses won the Arnold Clark Cup in February and has since gone from strength to strength
After having her Euro dreams ruined by a broken leg Esme Morgan balances university life and being a versatile player for Manchester City to fulfil one of her career aspirations at just 22 years old.
Another player who will be over the moon about making the World Cup squad will be Manchester United captain and set piece specialist Katie Zelem. Arguably wouldn’t have been in the squad if certain personnel were fit but following a campaign in which she was key in United’s highest WSL finish earning them Champions League qualification for the first time in the club’s history then what a player to call up on after missing out on the Euros cut last year despite making Wiegman’s initial shortlist.
When England last entered the World Cup Brighton forward Katie Robinson was still at college. A season to forget for the Seagulls but that definitely wasn’t the case for the young 20-year-old. She will mainly be used as an impact substitution but after being on loan at Charlton Athletic only a year ago along with experiencing an ACL injury she will be ecstatic to be a part of her first ever major tournament.
At 32 years old Laura Coombs is the oldest England tournament debutant. Not a stranger to the squad after making two appearances in 2015 under Mark Sampson as well as being called up for the Arnold Clark Cup in February.
Niamh Charles will be excited at the prospect of representing her country after being in and around the squad for a while. She was named on the standby list for Euro 2022 but never required. Charles will look to her WSL experience off the back of a campaign which she played almost every game as the Blues did the League and Cup double to compensate for her lack of major international tournament involvement.
Goalkeepers: Mary Earps (Man Utd), Ellie Roebuck (Man City), Hannah Hampton (Chelsea)
Defenders: Millie Bright (C) (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Barcelona), Jess Carter (Chelsea), Niamh Charles (Chelsea), Esme Morgan (Man City), Alex Greenwood (Man City), Lotte Wubben-Moy (Arsenal)
Midfielders: Kiera Walsh (Barcelona), Georgia Stanway (Bayern Munich), Ella Toone (Man Utd), Jordan Nobbs (Aston Villa), Laura Coombs (Man City), Katie Zelem (Man Utd).
Forwards: Alessia Russo (Arsenal), Rachel Daly (Aston Villa), Lauren Hemp (Man City), Chloe Kelly (Man City), Lauren James (Chelsea), Katie Robinson (Brighton), Bethany England (Tottenham).
Standby list: Maya Le Tissier (Man Utd), Jess Park (Man City), Emily Ramsey (Man Utd)
Predicted Line-Up: 4-3-3, Earps, Bronze, Bright (C), Carter, Greenwood, Walsh, Stanway, Toone, James, Daly, Hemp.