England face Norway on Tuesday night at 7pm in their final game of a historic year; The Lionesses became European champions and remain unbeaten, but head coach Sarina Wiegman is building for the future; More than half of England’s current squad are 23 or under
England Women will round off a historic year against Norway on Tuesday night – but they’re already planning for the future.
The Lionesses could not have had a better year. Arnold Clark Cup winners in February, European champions in the summer, undefeated throughout 2022 and a legacy created forever, yet Sarina Wiegman won’t be stopping there.
More than half of the squad at England’s warm-weather training camp in Spain are 23 or under. This shows the head coach isn’t just planning for next summer’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, she’s working on dominating for years to come.
England go into tonight’s game against Norway without six players that started the Euros final just 107 days ago, plus Arsenal defender Lotte Wubben-Moy, who will miss out after picking up a “minor muscle injury”.
The sextet of Lucy Bronze, Leah Williamson, Fran Kirby, Beth Mead, Lauren Hemp and Ellen White have 399 caps between them, not to mention a plethora of domestic, European and individual trophies.
Wiegman is focusing on the positives though. When I asked the, at times, stoic coach about the youth in the squad a smile instantly appeared on her face. “Isn’t it exciting?” she responded when we sat in the Spanish sun for a chat a couple of days ago.
Since the Euros, we’ve seen four players become seemingly entrenched in the squad. Lauren James has played a part in four of England’s last five games, Ebony Salmon has been given chances from the bench to replicate her NWSL form, while Niamh Charles and Esme Morgan started their first matches on Friday against Japan.
You’d think that means more youngsters are unlikely to be part of the World Cup squad when the senior players return. Six of the current England squad were born this millennium yet there aren’t any teenagers in the squad.
But Wiegman has already left out experienced players such as Beth England, Jess Carter, Demi Stokes and Lucy Staniforth, which means the team going out to Australia and New Zealand could make most of us feel very old indeed.
England Women 4-0 Japan Women: Daly, Kelly, Toone inspire friendly victory
Rachel Daly, Chloe Kelly, Ella Toone and Jess Park were all on target in a stylish 4-0 win as England dispatched former world champions Japan at the Pinatar Arena, further strengthening their position as one of the favourites for next year’s World Cup.
Debutant Park, on from the substitutes’ bench, rounded off the scoring late on to put the gloss on a thoroughly ruthless attacking display, as Sarina Wiegman extended her unbeaten reign as manager to 25 games.
Daly’s goal had given England a half-time lead and the European champions turned on the style after the break as Kelly and Toone struck before 21-year-old Park wrapped things up in the last minute of the 90.
Kelly, England’s most impressive outlet, was rewarded for all her first-half endeavour when sweeping home Beth Mead’s cross in the 53rd minute, cementing her claim for a regular starting berth in the absence of the injured Lauren Hemp.
Ebony Salmon, another Lionesses newcomer, was then involved in England’s final foray of the night when providing the fourth, robbing Moeka Minami of possession before cutting the ball back for Park to make a near-instant impact.