England Must Nail Down Forward Line With Final Warm-Up Match v Portugal

The Lionesses have one more game before they go down under
10:00, 01 Jul 2023

Sarina Wiegman, now CBE after a visit from Prince William, has carefully plotted England’s route to Australia and New Zealand. Not via Skyscanner, but through a mixture of qualification games, and now, pre-tournament friendlies. 

The international break in April saw an injury-hit England surprisingly lose to Australia on home soil, before they bounced back with victory in Finalissima against Brazil on penalties. England were not at their flying best, but the Dutch manager did learn some lessons about her squad. 

Now, England take on Portugal at Stadium:MK in their final game on home soil before the World Cup begins. The Lionesses will face Canada behind closed doors in Australia before their opener against Haiti, but this will be the last chance for fans to see the side before then. 


"I'm really pleased to have a competitive game for our last home fixture,” the manager said. 

"We had two big games in April against Brazil and Australia where we learned so much. This will be another challenging match against a team that have performed well and are going to their first World Cup.

“Portugal will also want to show they can be a threat to teams in Australia, and they have very technical players with good ability. For us, it will be important to come together again as a team after the end of the club season and feel the support of our fans.

“We'll do our best to give them a good performance. It will only be three weeks until our opening World Cup game so it will be such an important moment in our preparation.”


Again, it hasn’t been plain-sailing for the European champions. Alex Greenwood was briefly injured in training this week, but now appears to be okay - with fears that she may join an injury list that would improve any side in world football. Beth Mead, Leah Williamson and Fran Kirby are all out while stand-in captain Millie Bright will miss this game as she aims to be fit for the opening match of the World Cup. 

It’s not been ideal, but now the squad is together, Wiegman can finally start to nail down her preferred XI. It’s why this Portugal encounter takes on increased significance. They may not have been clinical in front of goal in the last break, and it still leaves that number nine spot open, even though Alessia Russo is Wiegman’s preferred option. 

She has had that shirt since the retirement of Ellen White, and looks likely to retain it for the time being, but it is worth considering the other options. Perhaps Rachel Daly will be given a run against Portugal, having won the Golden Boot in the WSL. Or, will the returning Bethany England have an impact after 12 goals in 12 games for Spurs since her move in January?

Russo has decided to leave Manchester United this summer but her next club is still yet to be decided, and that transfer speculation could linger over her over the next few weeks. Wiegman will be desperate for her full focus on this World Cup rather than her personal transfer business. 

This warm-up should hone England’s best starting XI. But unlike two years ago during the Euros success, it feels as though Wiegman will have to rotate and rely on her full squad more during the crucial moments. Portugal will provide the perfect litmus test, then it is down to business.

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