In their first game of the international break England’s women travel to the Stade Michel d’Ornano in Caen to face France in their first meeting since the 2018 She Believes Cup; where the Lionesses were 4-1 winners.
Since the game in 2018 France have risen to third in the world rankings while England now sit in sixth. However, France will not be joining Team GB at the Olympics after failing to qualify after their performance at the 2019 Women’s World Cup.
Interim manager Hege Riise is excited to see the team play high-level opposition, in one of her final chances to see the players before she has to make her selection for the Olympic squad.
“The game against Northern Ireland was a good starting point for us but in the next two games we play a stronger opponent and that will show the character, where we are and what we need to go forward.
“It will be a difficult game for us but our mentality should be that we want to go after them and prove ourselves. We want to show that we are a good team. There is nothing better than playing opposition that is third in the world.”
Riise will have a very talented squad of players to choose from and hopes to be able to give minutes to as many as possible over the next two games. She said she will have strong players coming off the bench in both games regardless of what starting 11 she puts out.
Ahead of their final chance to impress she said: “They know the competition but I want them to be relaxed and play their best.”
After doubts when the squad was announced Nikita Parris joined up with the team at St Georges Park for the first time this year. After a number of negative covid tests at her club she travelled from France and has had two training sessions with the group. Riise says she is ready to play against France if selected.
“It’s been good for her to be back on the team. It’s been a long time now since she was in the squad. She is happy and we are happy.”
Forward Ellen White is looking forward to playing for England again and says their focus is pitting themselves against the best of the best and seeing what they’ve done in training come to fruition, as well as continuing to build partnerships on the field.
As well as getting more minutes in an England shirt the players are working hard for their chance to be on the plane to Tokyo in the summer: “The focus is to be in contention to go to an Olympics. Everyone is doing what they can both here and at their clubs”
She is one of four players in the current Lionesses squad who were part of the Team GB side at London 2012. Along with Steph Houghton, Jill Scott and Karen Bardsley she made it to the quarter-finals of the games, where the team lost to next week’s opponents Canada.
“I’ll always go back to the Brazil game at Wembley, 70,000 people and Steph [Houghton] scoring the goal; it gives me goosebumps.
“The experience of being at the Olympics is one you’ll never forget,” she added.
As one of the most senior members of the squad White has seen the wealth of young talent that has been called up to the senior squad over the past few years.
“I look around and I’m surrounded by immensely talented players who have experienced youth level tournaments and within their clubs have been playing in the Champions League and winning trophies.
“It’s an exciting time to be an England player,” she added.