England coach Sarina Weigman announced a 23-player squad list for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup on Wednesday, 31 May 2023.
The Lionesses will travel to Australia and New Zealand in July for the newly expanded 32 teams Women’s World Cup for the first time in its history. Also, the Euro holders, Sarina Weigman’s side are one the favorites for the showpiece. England have a host of key players missing from the squad that won the Euros last year through season-ending injuries but certainly possess the talent to still make them a top side in the tournament.
England have participated in a total of five World Cups in 1995, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019 having not qualified for the inaugural edition of the tournament in 1991 and two more in 1999 and 2003. Their best finish in the competition came as a semi-final finish in the previous two editions. The Euro 2022 success was the first major competition success for the Lionesses so naturally they have never won the World Cup or been into the final. England’s all-time top scorer Ellen White has also scored the most goals in World Cup for the team with seven while six of them coming four years ago alone.
England ended as the fourth-best nation in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup hosted by France. They lost the third-place match against Sweden 2-1 after Frank Kirby’s strike on the half-hour mark proved not enough to turn over two early goals from the opposition. The Lionesses topped their group consisting of Asian heavyweights Japan, South American flair Argentina and fellow rivals Scotland. Winning all of their group games, scoring five and conceding just one, England marched onto the last 16 where they swiped aside Cameroon 3-0. Doing the same against Norway in the quarterfinals, their main stage journey ended with a 2-1 defeat to eventual winners USA in a contest that got everyone talking.
Qualification for the 2023 Women’s World Cup
The Lionesses were ruthless in their qualification to the 2023 Women’s World Cup ending as group winners with full points from 10 available games, losing none. They finished on 30 points, eight points better than second-place Austria. Weigman’s team scored a whopping 80 goals without even conceding in an incredibly dominant display. Beth Mead emerged as the best scorer with 13 goals while Ella Toone also chipped in 10.
Preparation for the 2023 Women’s World Cup
After wrapping up the qualifiers, England played eight games in preparation for the 2023 Women’s World Cup. It included the Arnold Clark Cup in February this year which they won for the second consecutive time. The Lionesses also defeated 2022 Copa America Femenina champions Brazil 4-2 on penalties, after the extra-time score stood 1-1, to lift the inaugural Women’s Finalissima in front of a packed Wembley crowd back in April. However, England suffered their first-ever defeat under Sarina Weigman in the very next match against one of the World Cup’s hosts Australia by 2-0. Their 30-match unbeaten streak came to an end.
England 2023 Women’s World Cup Squad
Goalkeepers: Mary Earps (Manchester United), Hannah Hampton (Aston Villa), Ellie Roebuck (Manchester City)
Defenders: Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Barcelona), Jess Carter (Chelsea), Niahm Charles (Chelsea), Alex Greenwood (Manchester City), Esme Morgan (Manchester City), Lotte Wubben—Mooy (Arsenal)
Midfielders: Laura Coombs (Manchester City), Jordan Nobbs (Aston Villa), Georgia Stanway (Bayern Munich), Ella Toone (Manchester United), Keira Walsh (Barcelona), Katie Zelem (Manchester United)
Forwards: Bethany England (Tottenham), Rachel Daly (Aston Villa), Lauren Hemp (Manchester City), Lauren James (Chelsea), Katie Robinson (Brighton), Chloe Kelly (Manchester City), Alessia Russo (Manchester United)
Head Coach: Sarina Weigman
Lucy Bronze and Millie Bright have been included in the England squad despite carrying injury worries from their club commitments. Sarina Weigman said Bronze is ready for the World Cup finals after the right-back went through a knee surgery in April but Bright is yet to become fully match-fit. The Chelsea center-back will captain the Lionesses in July in place of Leah Williamson who along with Euro 2022 golden boot winner Beth Mead are high-profile names missing due to long-term ACL injuries. Another star from the Euro triumph, Fran Kirby is also ruled out of the tournament with injury. Manchester City defender Steph Houghton is also left out despite most tipping the former England captain to make her return to the squad.
Midfielder Laura Coombs is one of six players in the squad who will be tasting a first major tournament in an England shirt along with Chelsea pair Lauren James and Niamh Charles, Esme Morgan of Manchester City, Manchester United's Katie Zelem and Brighton's Katie Robinson. Zelem’s clubmate Nikita Parris has been left out while Emily Ramsey (Everton/ Manchester United), Jess Park (Everton/ Manchester City) and Maya Le Tissier (Manchester United) are on the standby list in case of any injuries to the final group of players. Tottenham striker Beth England has been included following an incredible season in the WSL, scoring 14 goals in 20 matches.
The greatest strength of the Lionesses is the winning mentality they carry in always finding a way to get past the opposition no matter how tough the situation is. The team includes some of the top stars from the Women’s Super League and has the immense quality to lighten up the tournament. England have also got some serious firepower in three of the best strikers in the rank - Rachel Daly, Alessia Russo and Bethany England. The trio have scored an overall total of 46 goals in the WSL. Additionally, most of the members in the squad sustain major competition-winning experience after triumphing last summer. Their defense is rock solid with the most reliable keeper in Mary Earps guarding the stick.
However, injuries to major players in the squad could be a barrier for England. Even though they have a lot of quality up front, the lack of creativity will be evident without Beth Mead and Fran Kirby on the side. While the available forwards could step up in Mead’s absence, replacing Kirby will be the toughest task. The Chelsea midfielder’s absence was felt in the Finalissima when England fail to add more to their early lead allowing Brazil to come back in the game and also in the 2-0 defeat to the Matildas. Also, Leah Williamson is a big figure missing in the dressing room in terms of leadership. While Bright could perform the same job her fitness is a concern for the defense that has a reputation of not leaking goals. The team’s long-standing chemistry on the pitch also comes into question in the absence of so many stars.
Star Player: Rachel Daly
With no Beth Mead or the recently retired Ellen White in the ranks, England desperately needs someone to score the goals in a mega stage like the World Cup. They will look no further than Rachel Daly. Scoring 22 goals in 22 WSL games is a remarkable feat and the Aston Villa striker made it look easy for her outstanding scoring instinct. The 31-year-old brings the physicality and technicality in the same mixture to finish off her chances even from the most acute angles. Daly’s prominence in front of the goal is needed if the Lionesses are serious about winning the title. The competition in the forward line will also push her considering Alessia Russo has often been a go-to figure in the number nine role since the Euro triumph. One thing is for sure Rachel Daly will not be performing the left-back role again like in that competition.
How will England lineup in the 2023 Women’s World Cup Squad?
Sarina Wiegman will field the Lionesses in her classic 4-2-3-1 with WSL Golden Glove winner Mary Earps safeguarding the fort and Rachel Daly likely to lead the line. However, Alessia Russo could also get the nod with her clubmate Ella Toone taking the responsibility of being the creative hub for the side. Chloe Kelly and Lauren Hemp are expected to rule their flank after both being productive almost every time for club and country, particularly the latter. Georgia Stanway will be another influential player for England after dominating the midfield alongside Keira Walsh in the Euros. At the back, Millie Bright-Alex Greenwood's partnership has to be at its best to keep it solid in the absence of Williamson and add up to the forwards’ work.
2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup England Fixtures
Thursday, 22 July 2023
Haiti vs England
Wednesday, 28 July 2023
England vs Denmark
Tuesday, 1 August 2023
China vs England
Monday, 7 August 2023
Round of 16: 1D vs 2B
Saturday, 12 August 2023
QF 4: Winner of 1D/2B vs Winner of 1H/2F
Wednesday, 16 August 2023
SF 2: Winner QF 3 vs Winner Q4
Sunday, 20 August 2023
Winner SF 1 vs Winner SF 2
England will begin their 2023 World Cup campaign against tournament debutants Haiti in Group D. The group’s opening fixture should not pose a threat to the Lionesses to register the first win in the contest. If there is one side that can trouble Sarina Wiegman’s side is Denmark although they were not convincing in the last Euros. 2022 Asian Cup winners China could be unpredictable opposition but once again do not look like a side that can trouble the Lionesses. In short, England should have an easy stroll in the group stage barring any upsets.
If they end as group-winners, England will face the runners-up from Group B in the last 16 which could be Canada as hosts Australia is expected to top their group. Overcoming them can pit them against Germany in the rematch of the Euro 2022 final in the quarterfinals which will be a headline grabber. There is also the possibility of talking about the Maltidas, the side who broke their unbeaten streak, in the semis a step before the final on 20 August.
It is left to see how well the Lionesses cope without some of their key contributors to the Euro 2022 triumph. If they think about their own potential inside the squad and emulate the same class on the pitch, there will be no stopping for this side to hang more medals around their neck. Getting into the World Cup final will be humungous if not winning it which will be on the agenda for this group of players and obviously their inspiring coach.