Which England players strengthened their Euros hopes?
Top of the list has to be Jill Scott. Sent to Everton on loan last season and to Aston Villa this season, it would be easy to think the the 35-year-old midfielder’s England days were numbered. Far from it. Against Spain’s Barcelona-heavy midfield Scott was instrumental. The Chelsea defender Jess Carter showed her versatility, operating as a centre-back and left-back across the three games, and performed well. Hannah Hampton’s clean sheet and assured debut against Spain will have helped her edge closer to the third goalkeeper spot. SW
Most notably, a quartet comprising two key partnerships. Millie Bright, Alex Greenwood, Leah Williamson and Keira Walsh were always going to be in the squad but all four strengthened their case for starting the biggest games. While Bright and the helpfully left-footed Greenwood formed an excellent central-defensive axis, Williamson and Walsh showed they can serve as a fairly formidable “double six” combo in Sarina Wiegman’s apparently preferred 4-2-3-1. It seems Williamson has completed her transition from defence to midfield anchor but she is able to seamlessly revert to the rearguard should Wiegman switch to three at the back mid-match. Meanwhile Scott has reminded everyone that she remains an integral part of the squad. LT
Have anyone’s prospects been harmed?
No one performed particularly badly but a number struggled for minutes despite heavy rotation. Jordan Nobbs produced moments of brilliance against Spain but gave away possession a little too frequently and is struggling to find the form that made her nailed on to start for Arsenal before her ACL injury. Manchester United’s Katie Zelem did not play and is yet to build on her one cap. Meanwhile, Nikita Parris has not replicated her deadly Manchester City form at Arsenal or for England since a stint with Lyon. Steph Houghton is yet to play under Wiegman because of injury and City revealed on Thursday that she recently had achilles surgery and would “return to training in the near future”. Her chances have been dented by the performances of Bright, Williamson, Carter, Greenwood and Rachel Daly and, with Lotte Wubben-Moy a short-term absentee, the centre-back options look strong and difficult to break into. SW
Injured internationals often joke that they become regarded as “better players” while sidelined but the opposite could, unfortunately, be true for Houghton. Even if she returns to the squad this summer, she seems unlikely to break up the Bright-Greenwood axis. Although it was good to see Houghton’s City teammate Lucy Bronze return at right-back after a lengthy injury layoff, a defender still to return to full match fitness emphasised that she is often better going forward than defending. Phil Neville experimented with Bronze in midfield with mixed results and Wiegman may wonder if she could be better as a wing-back. It sounds like heresy but is there a chance Bronze may not automatically start every game at the Euros? LT
What did we learn about the team’s Euros chances?
It is hard to take a huge amount from a series of tight friendlies. Germany had 12 key players missing owing to injury and Covid, and 12 of Canada’s squad play in the US, which is off-season. However, matches against three nations ranked in the top 10 have offered the clearest look at whether England can challenge the best. The answer? Yes they can and, more importantly, there are significant signs of growth. The defensive issues that blighted Neville’s tenure look as if they are being ironed out and the team are creating chances. That is a solid platform. SW
Although the picture remains pretty opaque there was further evidence that England’s improvement under Wiegman is no illusion. But, despite playing their best football for a long time, they remain very much a work in progress and aren’t always great at seeing out games they should win. Moreover this promises to be an extremely strong Euros featuring particularly powerful opponents in Germany, France, Sweden, the Netherlands and an improving Spain. The good news for the Lionesses is that Wiegman, having led the Netherlands to Euro 2017 glory and the final of the 2019 World Cup, is one of those adaptable coaches eminently capable of finding a way to win. And in Fran Kirby and Lauren Hemp England possess two outstanding attacking talents. LT
What are the biggest lessons for England?
England had scored goals aplenty under Wiegman before this competition – 53 in six games – but were wasteful in a number of those matches. Against tougher opposition the team need to be more clinical. Wiegman is yet to get the best out of the world-class creator Kirby and that could be critical in that regard. Playing wide against Germany the Chelsea forward struggled. It is a role she plays often at club level but as part of a much more dynamic front three who bounce off each other. Against Germany she provided the assist for Ellen White when she drifted more centrally and was most effective when later moved into that position behind White, with more of a free rein. SW
Concentrate, concentrate, concentrate. The collective defensive focus is showing signs of considerable reassuring improvement from the latter days of Neville’s tenure when key players developed an unfortunate habit of switching off at vital moments but they need to maintain it. Meanwhile Wiegman will surely want to keep White, her most reliable goalscorer, swaddled in cotton wool. White’s understudies are infinitely less ruthless and far from convincing. LT