The 2017 SheBelieves Cup is now just a couple of days away, and VAVEL USA is previewing each of the four teams who are returning for the tournament’s second edition.
With sights set on European Championship glory this summer, England boss Mark Sampson has named a strong 23 to take on three of the world’s best, and they will hope to improve on their 0-2-1 record in the competition’s inaugural year.
England bank on security at the back
In line with Sampson’s most recent approach, he has opted for an incredibly experienced pool of defenders to lead his team. Captain Steph Houghton is joined by Manchester City teammates Lucy Bronze and Demi Stokes, as well as veteran centre-backs Casey Stoney and Laura Bassett. This should give England the freedom to rotate well during the tough schedule, without losing quality in the backline.
The one player to look out for though is tough-tackling defender/midfielder hybrid Millie Bright. The 23 year-old Chelsea star recently made her debut, and is making her first tournament appearance for the Lionesses. A solid showing here could make her a surprise name in June’s Euros team.
Also of note is the listing of Rachel Daly as a defender; she is well known in the States thanks to her goalscoring exploits at first St. John’s University and now the Houston Dash, but she has also played for many years as fullback. It seems unlikely that she gets a start over Bronze, Alex Scott, or Stokes, but her versatility may become key in a tough tournament scenario.
Question marks over goal scorers
For all their defensive solidity, having conceded only two goals in their last ten outings, there are still big questions over the goalscoring credentials of the current Lionesses squad - especially against the high-profile opposition they’ll be facing at SheBelieves.
After playing out a depressingly-cagey 0-0 draw with France back in October, Sampson told media that he wanted his team to be prepared for playing the latter stages of tournaments - but England fans are rightfully worried about their ability to find the back of the net.
The biggest hope for goals is likely from midfield, with players such as Karen Carney, Izzy Christiansen and Jordan Nobbs all known to chip in going forward. Jodie Taylor, who scored against Canada in the World Cup quarter-final back in 2015, is also a proven goalscorer on American soil after stints with the Washington Spirit and Portland Thorns, but the now-Arsenal striker is only just returning from a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
It’s always difficult to predict the moves of a manager who used five different formations at the World Cup, but one thing we can say for certain is that England’s games will not be high scoring.
England have never beaten France, and their bronze-medal win in 2015 was their first (and only) victory over the Germans - so wins will be very hard to come by, especially as all three teams are in the final preparation stages for the real prize of 2017 - the European Championships. The USA will probably mark England’s best chance of victory, what with them being in a ‘transition year’ - but the Americans will not go down easy, no matter what eleven they put out.
Whatever happens, this should be a very interesting indicator of the Lionesses’ potential success down the road.
Full England Squad:
Goalkeepers: Karen Bardsley (Manchester City), Siobhan Chamberlain (Liverpool), Mary Earps (Reading)
Defenders: Laura Bassett (Notts County), Gemma Bonner (Liverpool), Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Manchester City), Rachel Daly (Houston Dash), Steph Houghton (Manchester City), Alex Scott (Arsenal), Casey Stoney (Liverpool), Demi Stokes (Manchester City)
Midfielders: Izzy Christiansen (Manchester City), Jade Moore (Notts County), Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Jill Scott (Manchester City), Fara Williams (Arsenal)
Forwards: Karen Carney (Chelsea), Toni Duggan (Manchester City), Nikita Parris (Manchester City), Jodie Taylor (Arsenal), Rachel Williams (Notts County), Ellen White (Birmingham City)