England 3-0 Belgium: How close is Sarina Wiegman to knowing her best starting XI?

by Steven Smith
3 minutes read
Chloe Kelly celebrates
Chloe Kelly made an impact off the bench in her return to the England squad

Sarina Wiegman named a strong starting line-up for England’s victory over Belgium and afterwards said she was “a little closer” to knowing her best XI – but has the impact of the substitutes made her decision even harder?

England were comfortable 3-0 winners in Wolverhampton after creating numerous chances and dominating possession.

But it was the introduction of second-half substitutions that helped England get over the line after a frustrating first half in front of goal.

Chloe Kelly, returning after a year away from the international set-up, had a shot deflected in for England’s opener, before fellow substitute Rachel Daly volleyed in the second goal four minutes later.

An own goal late on confirmed victory for England, who eventually made their dominance count at Molineux.

They have two more friendlies – against the Netherlands at Leeds’ Elland Road on 24 June and away to Switzerland on 30 June – before their Euro campaign starts against Austria at Old Trafford on 6 July.

“The competition is really high and we have an opportunity for many players,” said Wiegman.

“Now we are just looking for connections and we can use different qualities in different positions. Yeah, we are getting a little closer [to knowing the best XI] but it’s not all set.

“We still have two matches to go, so we will see what happens. Things can change really quickly too.”

  • Reaction to England’s victory over Belgium

Some selection decisions do look clearer than others. For instance, goalkeeper Mary Earps was given confirmation by Wiegman in April that she was the number one, while forwards Lauren Hemp, Beth Mead and Ellen White have become a familiar trio in attack.

Millie Bright, Lucy Bronze and Demi Stokes are regulars in defence, while Keira Walsh and Williamson have formed an exciting partnership in midfield.

They all lined up from the start against Belgium and did little to harm their chances of a starting role at the Euros.

Georgia Stanway against Belgium
Georgia Stanway played in a midfield three alongside Leah Williamson and Keira Walsh against Belgium

Georgia Stanway, however, has an opportunity to try to consolidate a larger role in midfield ahead of young Ella Toone and Fran Kirby, who is managing her load after struggling with fatigue this season.

She linked up nicely with Williamson in particular in the first half but there were periods in the game where England lacked fluidity and tempo in midfield.

“We have to get used to each other a little bit. We have tried that before but not very much,” said Wiegman.

“It’s a little different and you could tell sometimes that we have to get used to that situation. This shape and change a little bit so we need a little bit more time on this.”

The victory over Belgium showed the depth of England’s squad, which could be crucial at the Euros and Wiegman has welcomed late claims for a place in the starting XI.

“I think we have a squad of 23 and you could bring on all the players,” she added.

“Yes, I hope I don’t get many headaches generally, but in this case I hope I do get a headache.”

As the Euros beckon, Kelly is one player hoping to make a claim for a starting role.

She was encouraged to “enjoy herself” and play with attacking freedom off the bench against Belgium and ultimately delivered when she cut inside off the right to fire in England’s deflected opener.

The Manchester City winger – back from a long-term knee injury – said she was just “hoping to show what I’m capable of” during these friendly matches but Wiegman has been encouraged by what she has seen so far.

“I think she adapted really quickly. She is enjoying it. She wasn’t with the team before so we needed to share some information and what we expected from her. I think she has done well,” said Wiegman.

“She built up playing minutes at Manchester City then we continued building her up here too. The competition in the team is really high so it’s nice.”

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