Preview: England vs North Macedonia

England’s team come into World Cup Qualifiers in somewhat patchy form having only won 2 out of the last 6 matches. This has of course included disruption due to that small matter of a global pandemic.

With a home Euros on the horizon, England will be looking to work towards more consistent winning form if they are to meet expectations next summer. Many will be hoping that the catalyst for this will come in the form of the new manager, Sarina Wiegman.

The Dutch coach joined up with the squad, straight off the back of a disappointing Olympics with the Dutch Women’s team. But her past successes are plain to see, instilling a more attacking outlook in the team she led the Netherlands to victory in her first major tournament as manager at the 2017 European Championships. Just two years later she was in a major final again, only losing out to the USWNT in the 2019 World Cup.

Wiegman will be hoping to emulate this start with England, the scenario must seem bizarrely similar – a team out of form heading into a home Euros. Her aspirations for this squad are abundantly clear, England must make a major final are they to be successful in fulfilling their potential.

Returning to the team after a spell out of favour, Mary Earps spoke about her expectations of the new manager “I get the impression that she will be direct,” she said. “She will tell you the honest truth, but I also feel that she is someone who really wants to speak to your character, she really wants to speak to you on a human level. She is expecting a level of intensity, she’s expecting a level of quality and she won’t shy away.”

Sarina Wiegman. All Photos: @Lionesses

The appointment, then, certainly seems to have raised excitement in the squad. Both a direct style verbally and direct attacking football are characteristic of her approach which England will look to benefit from in the World Cup Qualifiers.

Lotte Wubben-Moy also spoke about the arrival of Wiegman “with a new manager coming in she’s been amazing, already setting the principles and the outcomes in mind. I think it’s important just to look ourselves and prepare in the best way that we can and be ready for when we get tested.”

The upcoming matches offer Wiegman an opportunity to see her squad in action and the potential to test approaches and combinations in matches England would be expected to win against North Macedonia and Luxembourg.

England midfielder, Georgia Stanway, spoke about expectations coming into these two matches “we’re expected to win, everybody knows that England should beat these two opponents.

“We’re probably looking at scoring goals, keeping clean sheets, maybe potentially getting a few debuts and people getting the experience in England shirt. I think it’s just an opportunity for us as a team to build the culture and build that togetherness. Getting that relationship with the new staff that are here and obviously with players that probably never really played before.”

The next couple of matches against sides that offer comparatively lesser threat look to be formative in Weigman’s managerial stint. An opportunity to set the tone and instil principles within the squad for the newly appointed manager as much as an opportunity for a youthful squad to impress their new coach.

Asked about new coaches both domestically and internationally, Wubben-Moy looked forward to the opportunity this presented. “I relish opportunities for new beginnings, I think in new beginnings is when some of the greatest change can be made. Looking at the tournaments coming up you can’t help but be excited about what’s to come and when you look around the room you know that the possibilities are endless.”

England Women’s team will certainly be looking to put their front foot forward in their World Cup Qualifier this Friday against North Macedonia. Setting expectations and performance levels high is top of the agenda for Wiegman and is something we can look forward to witnessing as England look to provide foundations for a successful international campaign.