Bright is working her way back to full fitness – PA/Martin Rickett
England captain Millie Bright has eased concerns over her fitness going into the Women’s World Cup and says she is ahead of schedule in her recovery from a knee operation.
Chelsea centre-back Bright, who has not played since March and will skipper the Lionesses in Australia in the absence of long-term captain Leah Williamson, says she is “really confident” about being ready in time, with England’s first match of the tournament, against Haiti, taking place in Brisbane on July 22.
Who is in the England squad?
Mary Earps, 30 (Manchester United, 34 caps)
Squad No: 1
Having firmly established herself as England’s No 1 shot-stopper ever since head coach Sarina Wiegman took over in September 2021, Earps is in the form of her life and won the Fifa Best Goalkeeper of the Year award in February. Her 14 clean sheets in the Women’s Super League last term was a new record for a single WSL season. In January she also became the first keeper to pass 50 career clean sheets in WSL fixtures.
Hannah Hampton, 22 (unattached, 2 caps)
Squad No: 13
Hampton is seen as one of England’s most technically-gifted young goalkeepers and made her senior Lionesses debut in 2022’s Arnold Clark Cup’s goalless draw with Spain.
An unused substitute throughout last summer’s Euros, she was then dropped by both her club and country in the autumn of 2022, but her strong form for Aston Villa in the second half of the season saw her earn a recall to Wiegman’s squad in time for this World Cup.
Ellie Roebuck, 23 (Manchester City, 11 caps)
Squad No: 21
Manchester City’s first-choice keeper and a player with a relatively large amount of WSL experience for her age, Roebuck is a more-than-able deputy to Earps and would most probably be first in line to be called upon, should Earps be unable to play a World Cup match for any reason. She excels in one-on-one situations and shot-stopping is the best part of her game.
Millie Bright, 29 (Chelsea, 66 caps, 5 goals)
Squad No: 6
Captaining her country this summer in the absence of injured skipper Leah Williamson, Bright will be in the spotlight this summer more than ever before but appears at ease with those responsibilities. She is heading to her fourth major international tournament and England have reached at least the semi-finals in all of her previous three.
Strong in her physique, powerful in the air and skilled in her long diagonal balls too, she will start at centre-back – provided, of course, that she is passed fit in time. Bright has not played since March because of a knee injury but is “confident” she will be ready for the tournament, and her rehab is said to be ahead of schedule.
Lucy Bronze, 31 (Barcelona, 105 caps, 12 goals)
Squad No: 2
In June, Bronze won the Women’s Champions League for the fourth time in her career – the most of any English player – and in doing so with Barcelona, the former Lyon star became the first English player to win Europe’s top women’s club competition with two different teams.
She is one of the players in the England squad who can unquestionably be placed in the ‘world-class’ bracket and was named as the Fifa Best women’s player in 2020.
Jess Carter, 25 (Chelsea, 18 caps, 1 goal)
Squad No: 16
Particularly adept at playing at left-back or centre-back, Carter’s versatility is a good asset for Wiegman and she played in all five of England’s matches across February and April’s international windows. That suggests she will play a sizeable role this summer, after playing just 16 minutes of England’s triumphant Euros campaign a year ago.
Niamh Charles, 24 (Chelsea, 7 caps)
Squad No: 3
After narrowly missing out on the final squad of 23 for last summer’s Euros and being selected on standby for Team GB’s Olympic women’s football squad in Tokyo, Charles’ major-tournament debut has finally arrived.
Already a three-time WSL champion with Chelsea having helped them win three consecutive domestic doubles, Charles is a versatile, attacking full-back who has often been deployed as a wing-back for her club or even as a winger.
Alex Greenwood, 29 (Manchester City, 75 caps, 5 goals)
Squad No: 5
A technically-gifted, ball-playing centre-half, who completed more passes than any other WSL player last season, Greenwood is also proficient at left-back and could start in either position for the Lionesses at this World Cup.
She was utilised as one of England’s impact substitutes during last summer’s Euros, when Rachel Daly was starting at left-back, but with Daly being more likely to be deployed as a striker and with skipper Leah Williamson inured, Greenwood will now form an integral part of England’s back-line and her incisive passing will form a key part of the Lionesses’ tactics.
Esme Morgan, 22 (Manchester City, 5 caps)
Squad No: 15
Making her senior international debut last October, Morgan is amongst the new, young faces in this squad that will be unfamiliar to any spectators who have not tuned in since last year’s Euros triumph, but she is a steady defender who is showing maturity beyond her years. That was epitomised when she wore the captain’s armband for Manchester City in January at the age of 22, for the club that she first went to watch with a season ticket when she was three years old.
She was ruled out of 2022’s Euros after a broken leg saw her miss nearly a year’s worth of football, but she has been tipped to be a mainstay for the Lionesses in the future.
Lotte Wubben-Moy, 24 (Arsenal, 10 caps)
Squad No: 14
Despite being an unused substitute throughout 2022’s Euros, Wubben-Moy still made an indelible contribution to the sport that summer as she was the brainchild of the team’s open letter to the prime ministerial candidates at the time, calling for all girls to be given equal access to football in schools during PE lessons and after-school clubs.
London-born and a lifelong Arsenal fan, she helped her club reach the Women’s Champions League semi-finals last season but is the only member of Arsenal’s squad included for England this summer, amidst injuries to team-mates Williamson and Beth Mead.
Laura Coombs, 32 (Manchester City, 5 caps)
Squad No: 17
The oldest player in this England squad, Coombs’ international career is going through something of a renaissance after she made her first appearances for the Lionesses since 2015 in February’s Arnold Clark Cup. She helped England win the Under-19 Euros way back in 2009 as part of a team that also featured Bronze and Jordan Nobbs, but Coombs has had to wait until this year to really see a transformation in her fortunes at senior international level.
Her extensive club career is a rarity in that she has played for all three of the WSL’s most successful sides, in Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City, as well as Liverpool, and previously spent time playing in the United States.
Jordan Nobbs, 30 (Aston Villa, 71 caps, 8 goals)
Squad No: 12
Misfortune has plagued Nobbs’ dreams of success at major international tournaments after injuries ruled her out of last summer’s Euros, the last World Cup in 2019 and limited her to just one appearance at the 2015 World Cup, but this summer she is raring to go after a stellar second half of the WSL campaign with her new club, Aston Villa.
Seeking to make sure she earned a spot in this World Cup squad, she decided to end her 13-year stay at Arsenal in January to join Carla Ward’s side, specifically with England in mind.
Georgia Stanway, 24 (Bayern Munich, 50 caps, 15 goals)
Squad No: 8
Who could forget Stanway’s scorching strike from range that won England’s quarter-final against Spain last summer? Since then, this tough-tackling, box-to-box midfielder from Cumbria has won the Frauen Bundesliga title in Germany with Bayern Munich and is set to star for her country again in Australia.
She is expected to be the team’s primary penalty taker again, so could well get herself on the scoresheet multiple times, but in normal play her role within England’s midfield will be vital to their progress.
Ella Toone, 23 (Manchester United, 32 caps, 16 goals)
Squad No: 10
As one of the ‘super subs’ for England last summer, Toone’s role has now switched from second-half game-changer to playing from the start, amidst the continued absence of Chelsea playmaker Fran Kirby.
With her name already guaranteed to be forever stamped into the England history books thanks to her opening goal against Germany in last summer’s final at Wembley, 2023 is her chance to show her potential on a global stage in her first World Cup.
Keira Walsh, 26 (Barcelona, 59 caps)
Squad No: 4
The world’s most expensive signing in women’s football, after her transfer to Barcelona from Manchester City last summer for a fee of just over £400,000, Walsh has more than proven her worth by helping the Catalan club win the Champions League in June and she goes into this World Cup as one of England’s most important players.
Amongst the strong contenders for the unofficial title of ‘best midfielder in the world’, and undoubtedly one of the leading holding midfielders of her generation, she is a linchpin of this Wiegman side.
Katie Zelem, 27 (Manchester United, 8 caps)
Squad No: 20
A set-piece-taking specialist and the captain of a Manchester United side that have just enjoyed their best-ever season, Zelem was mightily relieved to be called up for this World Cup after surprisingly being left out of the squad for April’s fixtures against Brazil and Australia.
Prior to that, she has been regularly included by Wiegman and, although she is unlikely to start games at this tournament when everybody is fit, she will offer a strong option from the bench.
Rachel Daly, 31 (Aston Villa, 69 caps, 13 goals)
Squad No: 9
Daly arrives at this World Cup as one of the most in-form strikers on the planet, having won the WSL’s Golden Boot award with 22 goals in 22 league games last season for Aston Villa.
Viewers of last summer’s Euros will know her as the Celion Dion song-singing left-back who started every game of that tournament as England’s number three, but while her versatility is hugely valuable to Wiegman, this summer the high expectation is that Daly will be used as a central striker, where she has thrived for her club since signing from Houston Dash last August.
Bethany England, 29 (Tottenham Hotspur, 21 caps, 11 goals)
Squad No: 19
With her international career seemingly in the doldrums when she had not played for her country since September, Barnsley-born England sought to revive her chances of a World Cup call-up when she left Chelsea in January and joined Tottenham. She feels the “big risk” she took in leaving Chelsea has fully paid off after she notched up an impressive 12 goals in 12 WSL games for Tottenham and that goal-scoring streak meant Wiegman could not ignore her performances.
She was also part of last summer’s Euros squad, though, yet did not get on the pitch in any of the Lionesses’ six matches at that tournament, so it remains to be seen whether she will be given her chance in a major finals.
Lauren Hemp, 22 (Manchester City, 38 caps, 10 goals)
Squad No: 11
Only Earps, Walsh and new captain Bright have played more minutes in an England shirt since Wiegman took charge in 2021 than Manchester City winger Hemp, who – despite still only being 22 years old – is now the eighth-most-capped player in this squad.
She completed 35 dribbles in the WSL last season, second in the division behind only Lauren James, and she will be one of England’s most dangerous attacking weapons at this tournament. With a combined 13 goals and assists in the last WSL season, perhaps the only real criticism that could be thrown her way is that she is not yet converting enough of her chances into goals, but with her pace, skill and natural ability, this could be her tournament to shine.
Lauren James, 21 (Chelsea, 11 caps, 1 goal)
Squad No: 7
The breakthrough star for England at 2023’s Arnold Clark Cup, James has quickly become one of the Lionesses’ most important attacking players, after a title-winning season with Chelsea. Extremely comfortable and confident with the ball at her feet, James frequently glides past defenders with ease and her trickery will help unlock defences.
She is building a good combination with right-back Bronze down England’s right flank, but James can also play centrally as a number 10. Her brother Reece plays for Chelsea and England.
Chloe Kelly, 25 (Manchester City, 26 caps, 6 goals)
Squad No: 18
The scorer of the winning goal in last summer’s historic final at Wembley, Kelly will forever be an England heroine and the image of her wheeling away and swirling her shirt over her head in celebration is one no Lionesses fan will forget.
Now, after a strong year for Manchester City which saw her finish the WSL season joint-second on the division’s assists chart, behind only Chelsea and Norway’s Guro Reiten, pacey Kelly looks set to leave another big mark on this tournament with her acceleration, quick feet and powerful finishing.
Katie Robinson, 20 (Brighton & Hove Albion, 5 caps)
Squad No: 22
The youngest member of England’s World Cup squad, Robinson has impressed Wiegman during her handful of senior appearances since making her debut last November and she beat off competition from established stars such as Manchester United winger Nikita Parris to claim a seat on the flight to Australia.
Cornwall-born Robinson helped her club Brighton & Hove Albion reach the semi-finals of the Women’s FA Cup last term and her low centre of gravity, close ball-control and agility will make her a useful weapon in attack this summer.
Alessia Russo, 24 (Unattached, 22 caps, 11 goals)
Squad No: 23
With a goal in every two games that she has played for her country, Russo has a good track record internationally and has been a regular starter in Wiegman’s side during the 2022-23 campaign, since being used as a ‘super sub’ alongside Toone during last summer’s Euros.
She catapulted to fame by scoring a clever back-heel goal in England’s Euros semi-final victory over Sweden and now will be battling with Daly for the chance to start up front.
Two outfield players were named on standby for the Lionesses, and they will fly to Australia with England on Wednesday, July 5 to acclimatise to Australia and continue training with the squad until England’s opening game against Haiti on July 22. At this point, if they have not been required as an injury replacement, they will travel back home to England. The two outfield players are:
Defender – Maya Le Tissier, 21 (Manchester United, 2 caps)
The young centre-back was arguably the most unfortunate of all the players who missed out on the 23-player squad, having enjoyed a highly impressive season in her first campaign at Manchester United to help them finish second in the WSL with the best defensive record in the division.
Guernsey-born Le Tissier, who is no relation to Southampton men’s team legend Matt, signed for Manchester United from Brighton in 2022 for a fee understood to be in the region of £50,000-£60,000, and she played in all 22 of her new team’s league fixtures and helped them keep 14 clean sheets, conceding only 12 goals in those 22.
Midfielder – Lucy Staniforth, 30 (Aston Villa, 17 caps, 2 goals)
The Aston Villa player joined the England camp later than Le Tissier, because initially Manchester City midfielder Jess Park was named on standby, but Park had to withdraw because of a shoulder injury.
Staniforth made her England debut five years ago under former head coach Phil Neville but she has not played for her country since October 2021 in a home qualifier against Northern Ireland at Wembley, which was her only appearance under Wiegman to date.
Sarina Wiegman, 53 (born in The Netherlands)
A back-to-back winner of the European Championship after winning the 2017 title with the Netherlands before guiding England to glory in 2022, both on home soil for the respective sides, Wiegman has transformed the Lionesses fortunes and helped them take that elusive step of lifting their first major piece of silverware.
In her 32 matches in charge of the team prior to the start of the World Cup, she has overseen just one defeat, in a friendly against Australia in April, and across those 32 fixtures her team averaged 4.31 goals-per-game, which conceding at a rate of close to just one goal in every three fixtures. She reached the final at the last World Cup with the Netherlands, losing to the United States in Lyon, and this time will be hoping to go one further.
What does the England kit look like?
The team will wear gym blue shorts with the home shirt (the away kit is “coast blue with a gym blue trim”). Players had expressed concerns about white shorts while on their periods.
“I really like the new kits,” Keira Walsh said. “The home kit is just classic, very England. That is what we love about it. It really represents us as a nation.”
The FA says that it pays homage to the 1984 Lionesses.
How will England’s injuries affect their chances?
By Tom Garry
Earlier this year if you had asked most women’s football aficionados who they were tipping to win this summer’s World Cup, most would have mentioned England, along with the holders the United States and two-time champions Germany as the leading contenders.
But then the Lionesses had captain Leah Williamson and Chelsea star Fran Kirby both ruled out of the tournament because of knee injuries, and with Euros Golden Boot-winner Beth Mead now also confirmed as missing the World Cup too, the outside, global perception of England’s threat will be very different.
Can England still win the World Cup, without those players? Yes, it’s certainly possible, as Sarina Wiegman’s squad remains one of the strongest that will fly Down Under.
But will they win it? That now seems much more doubtful, and frankly, even reaching the latter stages would register as another big achievement in the circumstances.
It’s a fairly youthful England squad compared to most previous tournaments, with an average age of 25.7, down from 27.1 for the 2019 World Cup. There is plenty of exciting talent – not least skilful stars including Lauren James, Chloe Kelly, Lauren Hemp – but there will be rival teams at these with far more major-tournament experience, particularly in view of England’s injuries.
It is not just that trio’s absences that will matter: Centre-back Millie Bright has been selected, but still faces a race to be fit in time for the opening game, having been sidelined since March. And even before their injuries worries mounted, the Lionesses already knew they were in the tougher half of the draw.
In the same half of the draw – which is entirely separated from the other half until the final because of the divide between teams based in Australia and teams based in New Zealand for the tournament – are most of the world’s in-form sides: A strong-looking Germany side, a resurgent France with their new manager Herve Renard, co-hosts Australia and the competition’s poster star Sam Kerr, Olympic champions Canada and South American champions Brazil. Four-time winners the United States find themselves in the other half of the competition and unable to meet any of those sides prior to the final.
The Lionesses reached the semi-finals at each of the past two World Cups. Another run to the semi-finals should not be sniffed at. In order to achieve that – if they both win their groups and tough-looking last-16 games – England would have to get past Germany in a blockbuster quarter-final, as they are on collision course for a last-eight meeting in Sydney. To get past a tie like that will require a performance for the ages.
How have England done before?
England have now qualified for the Women’s World Cup six times. They have reached the quarter-finals three times and the semi-finals twice, most recently in 2019 when they were knocked out by eventual winners US.
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