The match report as England head into the World Cup on the back of a goalless draw with Portugal; great opportunity missed by Rachel Daly and Alessia Russo in their battle for the striker role; Stanway and Bronze hit bars and posts; England’s World Cup opener against Haiti is three weeks away
Through Peter Smith, Senior Football Journalist @psmithXI
18:02, UK, Saturday 01 July 2023
England hit the woodwork twice and wasted a series of good second-half chances as they drew their final World Cup warm-up on these shores 0-0 with Portugal at Stadium MK on Saturday.
With their opening World Cup group game against Haiti three weeks away, the European champions looked flat in the first 45 minutes until Georgia Stanway deflected the ball against the bar on the stroke of half-time.
However, a triple change at the break saw progress, with sub Alessia Russo dangerous but lacking in sharpness and Lucy Bronze headed against the post from a corner as Sarina Wiegman’s side tried to sign off with a win before flying to the tournament in Australia and New Zealand.
Portugal, set to play in their first World Cup this summer, held out, however, and England now have a behind-closed-doors friendly with Canada on Friday July 14 to refine their form before the start of the World Cup.
How England got the World Cup wrong
One positive for England is that, unlike in their previous five World Cup appearances, they will not be going into the tournament on the back of a defeat. In fact, Portugal never looked likely to get a first-time win against England.
The hosts started positively, with Rachel Daly – given a start to impress in her battle with Russo for the No 9 spot – making goalkeeper Ines Pereira work from two early headers.
Stanway later deflected the ball over the crossbar with his knee on the stroke of half-time. But between England fought.
Rachel Daly started up front ahead of Alessia Russo, while goalkeeper Mary Earps took the captain’s armband in the absence of Leah Williamson and Millie Bright. Alex Greenwood was fit to start after an ankle knock while Georgia Stanway won her 50th cap.
The visitors – who had won eight in a row until April – found their feet after Daly’s early headers, which limited England and enjoyed some joy down the right.
An Ella Toone shot dragged wide from distance, a Daly overhead well-off target, a miscued Alex Greenwood cross into the roof of the net and a blocked shot from Daly were as threatening as Wiegman’s side got until Stanway improvised from Lauren Hemp’s cross at the stoppage. time.
In response, the manager made a triple change at the break, with Russo, Kelly and Niamh Charles and Lauren James moving to No 10. This changed England’s attacking play – but the cutting edge was still missing.
Hemp headed in a corner and Kelly hit the target from a tight angle but in a three-minute burst on the hour mark England should have gone ahead.
James played in Russo, who rounded the goalkeeper but was denied by Ana Borges’ covering block. Bronze then headed a Stanway corner against the post and Russo headed a Kelly cut-back wide.
Russo continued to be England’s focal point but several efforts wide in quick succession were followed by a tame saved shot and blocked strike in the final moments as the home side – despite 23 shots in total – has failed to find breakthrough. They need to be more clinical Down Under.
Wiegman: We could have gone up 3-0
England manager Sarina Wiegman on ITV: “We were disappointed that we didn’t score a goal. I think we saw a lot of things. I think we were too slow with our possession game in the first half. We had too many players behind the ball so when we did. pass this, we don’t have enough players, but it’s too slow.
“We did a bit better in the second half with players higher up the pitch and at moments we played faster, and the tempo of the ball was higher. But there were still moments where we were too long on the ball and running with the ball too much. .
“Even though we created a lot of chances, and shots [total] is not saying everything, but we must put the ball in the back of the net. We all know that.
“We just need to do a bit better. I’m convinced we can do better. But if we score a couple of goals no-one says anything. We could have been up 3-0. They really have no chance. .
“That’s what the hope is and when you see us change a lot of players and they have to adapt to each other again, I think we did those things well. That seems simple, but it’s not simple.”
Questions remain for Wiegman and England ahead of the World Cup
Sky Sports News’ Gail Davis at Stadium MK:
“England have some questions to answer in this match. Without Millie Bright in defence, who will? Well, Esme Morgan looks composed and assured alongside Jess Carter. Alex Greenwood had a decent first half in left that gives England a little more than a creative outlet.
“We know they are Wiegman’s go-to trio but Georgia Stanway, Ella Toone and Keira Walsh struggled to hold the midfield in the first half and the England manager will want more from them in the coming weeks.
“The debate about who will start up front will no doubt continue. Rachel Daly had early chances to stake her claim but Alessia Russo looked bright, lively and a handful in the second half but – and it was a big but – he didn’t finish any of his chances.
“The Lionesses have another game behind closed doors to correct some of those things and find their form in front of goal. It’s a game they really should have won.”
England have a behind-closed-doors match against Canada on Friday July 14 before their first group game at the World Cup, where they face Haiti in Brisbane on Saturday July 22 at 10.30am UK BST. Denmark and China are also in Group D.
When and where is the 2023 Women’s World Cup?
This year’s tournament will be held in Australia and New Zealand making it the first co-host of the Women’s World Cup.
The tournament is about to start July 20 in the final occurring at August 20 in Sydney at Accor Stadium.
The USA are the defending champions and are seeking to become the first team in the history of the competition to win the tournament three times in a row.
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