As the U.S. women’s national team prepares for the 2023 World Cup, Just Women’s Sports is taking a look at its opponents — including its three group-stage adversaries and its likely matchups in the knockout rounds.
Next up is a recent foe and potential opponent in the 2023 World Cup final: England.
Fans of women’s soccer know the name Sarina Wiegman. The 53-year-old joined the club from the Netherlands, where she had been head coach from 2016-21 after a long international career as a player. Since taking over as manager in September 2021, Wiegman has led the club to its first-ever Euros title — a year after also winning it with the Netherlands — and to victory over Brazil in the first-ever women’s Finalissima. The 2022 Best FIFA Women’s Coach’s first loss as England coach came just this year, a 2-0 defeat in a friendly against Australia.
England has a multitude of offensive and defensive weapons, but perhaps no player is more important than goalkeeper Mary Earps. The 30-year-old Manchester United keeper is the glue that holds the Lionesses together as they look to win their first-ever World Cup. Earps is one of the best goalkeepers in the world, becoming the first to reach 50 clean sheets in the WSL in May, and England will rely on her all tournament.
England has advanced to the knockout stage of every World Cup they’ve played in, including three quarterfinals appearances in 1995, 2007 and 2007 and a third-place finish in 2015. The Lionesses followed that up with a fourth-place finish in 2019 after the USWNT knocked them out of the semifinals, 2-1. England then lost to Sweden 2-1 in the third-place match.
England will play in Group D alongside Denmark, China and Haiti. Take a look at the schedule below, or check out the full World Cup schedule.
This England squad looks vastly different from the one that won Euros a year ago and beat the USWNT 2-1 in a friendly at Wembley last October. Leah Williamson, Beth Mead and Fran Kirby are all out with injuries sustained in the last year, with Williamson perhaps the team’s biggest loss.
Despite the injuries, England is considered one of the favorites to win the World Cup title. And based on the bracket, if the USWNT is to meet England in the tournament, it will be in the final.
This is a team full of stars who have come into their own since winning the Euros title last year. Ella Toone and Georgia Stanway are dangerous midfielders, while Rachel Daly, Lauren Hemp, Alessia Russo and Chloe Kelly provide England with a well-balanced attack up front. The team is anchored by Lucy Bronze, Millie Bright and Lotte Wubben-Moy on the backline and in front of Earps.
England has struggled to find its footing of late, taking a 2-0 loss to Australia and 0-0 draw with Portugal into the World Cup as their latest results. To beat the USWNT once again, they’ll look to follow a similar playbook as their win in October: strike early and attack often. They’ll also need to contain Sophia Smith, who had the USWNT’s lone goal in that game. The speed of the USWNT’s other attackers — Trinity Rodman, Lynn Williams and Alex Morgan — could also pose problems for England.
But if England can get rolling early, they’ll put the USWNT into a vulnerable position they don’t often find themselves in, needing to respond rather than attack.