23 Oct Preview: England vs Northern Ireland
The Lionesses are heading back to Wembley Stadium to play their first ever competitive match at the home of English football.
A record attendance of 77, 768 came out to support the Lionesses in their previous game at Wembley almost two years ago. The hosts had themselves a frustrating night losing 2-1 to Germany, yet the score line, nor the weather, clouded the occasion.
In the throes of their World Cup qualifying games, England will now take on Northern Ireland for the second time this year. Their first meeting took place behind closed doors at St. George’s Park in February. The Lionesses comfortably secured a 6-0 win with goals from Ella Toone, Lucy Bronze and Rachel Daly, as well as a hat-trick from Ellen White.
England have started their World Cup qualifying campaign in rather spectacular fashion, racking up a colossal 18 goals in their last two matches against North Macedonia and Luxembourg. New boss Sarina Wiegman appears to have breathed a new lease of life into England’s national side,although one is careful to consider more testing fixtures will be on their way.
Wiegman will face a different sort of challenge against Northern Ireland. A grander occasion, a distinctive rivalry. We may well see the visiting side deliver a slightly more pressing affair to those experienced by Wiegman’s Lionesses so far.This will offer England the opportunity to work their defensive chops and exercise their structural alignment under new management. England will be without defensive staples Lucy Bronze and Steph Houghton who are both unavailable through injury.
Interim captain, Leah Williamson, notes Northern Ireland’s possession-based style of play and the impact this will have on England’s gameplan.
“The way that they’re playing and the way they want to play out is impressive. I think it’ll definitely give us problems so we’re not underestimating them.”
“They’re very forward thinking and quite direct. We’ll have to be defensively very good.”
Boss Sarina Wiegman is also expecting a harder task than the ones she has faced so far, yet she is still intent on enjoying the occasion.
“I expect a harder game than we had last month from a higher level. I think we’ll still be the team that will have possession lots of time in the game.”
“Northern Ireland have qualified for the Euro’s for the first time which is really good. So yes, I’m really excited to get to the game.”
Similarly to England, Northern Ireland have won both of their first qualifying matches with 4-0 wins over Luxembourg and Latvia respectively. There has been noted a noted growth inquality and confidence to Kenny Shiel’s side and this has been reflected in some impressive results over the course of the past year. Northern Ireland have now qualified for their first major tournament and will take part in next year’s Euro’s.
Arguably considered as the ‘underdogs’ of the upcoming fixture, Northern Ireland will be without their only two players occupying the Women’s Super League. Birmingham City’s Rebecca Holloway is unlikely to make an appearance and Everton’s Simone Magill is unavailable due to personal reasons. This is likely to make things a little more difficult for the visitors, however Shiels is confident his side will be able to give England a run for their money.
“We feel as if we can win the game. Someone give me a reason to why we can’t?”
“We will go there and not behave like underdogs. We are going over there with an attitude that we want to win the game.” (Source BBC)
Ones to watch
Ellen White is on course to become the Lionesses all-time top goal scorer. The Manchester City player currently has 43 international goals, just 3 behind record holder Kelly Smith. White, who is renowned for her performances in an England shirt, scored the Lionesses only goal the last time they visited Wembley. White is a work horse in getting herself intodangerous positions and boasts a clinical finish. The strikerhas scored four goals in her last two games and will be looking to serve ‘signature White’ in etching her name on the scoresheet once more.
On the other side, Liverpool’s Rachel Furness is likely to be a crucial component for Northern Ireland. The experienced midfielder has a wealth of international experience under her belt and has a sharp ability to dictate play through the middle. Furness is her country’s top female goal scorer with 33 goals. She is only three goals away from laying level with Northern Ireland’s male top scorer David Healy.
How to watch
The match kicks off at 5:15pm (BST) and will be shown live on ITV1 with coverage from 4:30pm. Please check local listings if you are viewing from outside the UK.