England’s new era under Sarina Wiegman has been one of excellence, but this team will need to match the high expectations at Euro 2022 if they genuinely want to make their mark.
The Lionesses thrashed one of the favourites and current holders – Netherlands - 5-1 at Elland Road in their penultimate warm-up match, and then followed that up with a 4-0 win over Switzerland in Zurich to extend their unbeaten run to 14 ahead of the tournament.
But can England do it when it really matters?
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England’s squad

The biggest question prior to the 23-player squad being announced on June 15 was whether former England captain Steph Houghton would make the cut.
And the answer was no.
Houghton, who has been a part of the national team for 15 years, has not been able to play for her club side, Manchester City, since January due to an Achilles injury.
The centre-back was training with the squad before Wiegman finalised her team and was happy with where she was at physically.
“I back myself, I back my fitness, I back the work I’ve done that nobody’s seen, and I’m improving every single day,” she had said while training with the 28 players who made the provisional list.

Steph Houghton

Image credit: Getty Images

"I’m enjoying being back out on the pitch. I’m confident I can get back to my best."
However, Wiegman wasn’t convinced, saying Houghton was "just not ready to compete".
The decision apparently frustrated Houghton, who will likely not feature for England again in the foreseeable future - and the two are reportedly not speaking until the tournament is over.
Despite thinking that Houghton isn’t ready, Wiegman did opt to take Jill Scott, who struggled with a knee injury during the end of last season, and Fran Kirby, who has not played a competitive match since February due to a fatigue issue.
Others that made the cut include England’s all-time leading goal-scorer Ellen White, Barcelona’s new signing Lucy Bronze and Leah Williamson, who was announced as the Lionesses’ captain in April.

Full squad list

  • Goalkeepers: Mary Earps (Manchester United), Hannah Hampton (Aston Villa), Ellie Roebuck (Manchester City).
  • Defenders: Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (unattached), Jess Carter (Chelsea), Rachel Daly (Houston Dash), Alex Greenwood (Manchester City), Demi Stokes (Manchester City), Lotte Wubben-Moy (Arsenal).
  • Midfielders: Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Jill Scott (unattached), Ella Toone (Manchester United), Georgia Stanway (Bayern Munich), Keira Walsh (Manchester City), Leah Williamson (Arsenal).
  • Forwards: Beth England (Chelsea), Lauren Hemp (Manchester City), Chloe Kelly (Manchester City), Beth Mead (Arsenal), Nikita Parris (Arsenal), Alessia Russo (Manchester United), Ellen White (Manchester City).

Manager

Wiegman is the first non-British Lionesses’ manager in history (if Norwegian Hege Riise, who served as caretaker between Phil Neville and Wiegman, is excluded).
Wiegman was the FA’s first choice post the Neville era, and it is no surprise why. Having coached since 2006, her most notable achievements are with the Dutch side she managed prior to her stint with the Lionesses.
Before her arrival, the Netherlands had only qualified for one FIFA World Cup and one European Championship. Under her guidance, the team managed to win the 2017 Euros after a 4-2 victory against Denmark in the final. Two years later, the Dutch made the World Cup final but just fell short to the United States, who were considered the best team in the world at the time.
Wiegman is known to be determined and ruthless when it comes to managing her teams. Her exclusion of Houghton shows it. Managers in the past may have included the 34-year-old due to emotional sentiment, but Weigman has consistently demonstrated that she is firm in her decision-making, a quality that this England side could do with.
If Neville was the manager that was supposed to develop the current group of players, then Wiegman is the manager to ensure that silverware is actually won.

Playing style

Wiegman's resolute and purposeful mentality is also ever-present in her tactics and how she has set up this England side.
In the 4-3-3 formation, England usually try to keep possession and build up from the back. When attacking, the focus is on keeping the front three narrow and as close to the goal as possible. This allows the full-backs to push up and create an overload on the wings, and it gives more opportunities for the attackers to get shots off – a higher volume of shots, the more likely they will score.
England are diligent when out of possession - they will often aggressively press from the front by closing off any passing lanes. If the ball gets past their forward line, England resort to their high backline, hoping to suffocate their opponents in midfield or catch them offside.

Star player: Beth Mead

Beth Mead has been representing England since 2010, when she made two appearances for the Under-15s. After that, she played at every other age level until her senior team debut in 2018.
Since then, she has made 38 appearances and has scored an astonishing 22 goals. Wiegman seems to favour the Arsenal forward, and there is no doubt she will be crucial if England are to have success this month.
Mead has the ability to play on either wing, making her the versatile forward England need. Her skill sets include dexterity in 1v1 situations, timing of runs into the box, and playmaking. Her energy also makes her a massive asset out of possession, with the 27-year-old consistently engaging in Wiegman’s aggressive pressing system.

Prediction

Many factors are in England’s favour for this tournament: they are playing at home, they have a manager who has won the competition before, and they are in fantastic form.
They have a favourable group-stage draw and should realistically top a group that contains Norway, Austria, and Northern Ireland.
It’ll get a bit trickier in the knockout rounds. Despite England’s fine form, they are the lowest-ranked of all the European powerhouses - Spain (7), Germany (5), Netherlands (4), France (3) and Sweden (2) are all above eighth-placed England. They will likely face one or more of Germany, Spain, France, and the Netherlands in the latter stages of the competition – all very strong teams that have shown they have the capabilities to hurt England in the past.
With all of the country’s group-stage games sold out, as well as the final at Wembley, the hope is that the fans will be the push the Lionesses need to claim victory at Euro 2022, even if they aren’t necessarily the favourites on paper.
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