Nothing lasts forever, as England found out on Tuesday night with their 30-game unbeaten run under Sarina Wiegman coming to an end as they were defeated 2-0 by Australia at the Gtech Community Stadium.
It has long been wondered how long the European champions could go unbeaten before they were brought back down to Earth by having their frailties exposed. For all their exciting play, the Lionesses have often shown gaps that could be exploited on the counter-attack, and that is exactly what happened against the Matildas.
Sam Kerr, Chelsea star and one of the best players in the world, made no mistake in punishing the Lionesses as she scored and assisted to hand Australia a valuable victory ahead of this summer’s World Cup, which they are hosting alongside New Zealand.
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The players were left deflated as their magnificent run, stretching back to September 2021 when Wiegman took charge, came to an end. Captain Leah Williamson told ITV Sport that they felt “rubbish.” And that is totally understandable, not just because they have lost their sense of invincibility as a result of a disappointing performance, but because this was their final match before the manager names her squad for the World Cup.
The Dutch coach is going to now have a tough decision to make when naming the players for the squad after this setback. Certain players will be worrying if their place is in doubt for the summer but many of them are key to this team.
Despite the immediate doom and gloom of the defeat in west London, this match could be a blessing in disguise for the Euro 2022 champions. Better for them to suffer a loss now while there is still time before the tournament to adapt and work on their vulnerabilities than head to Australia and New Zealand and be given no time at all after losing.
When you go unbeaten for 30 games the shadow of defeat grows larger and the more inevitable it becomes that the bubble will burst. England will still take huge pride from reaching such a milestone but they will now look to get their heads down and figure out how to become that team that is hard to beat once again. This will come through them evolving. Certain aspects of their play are working but now teams are aware of where their weaknesses lie and this will be a priority for the Lionesses over the next couple of months.
England boast one of the strongest squads in the world and when a team goes on such a gargantuan unbeaten run, complacency sets in because what they had been doing had been working to effect. This allowed the likes of Australia to study them intently and find out how to hurt them.
Wiegman now faces a task she has not yet experienced since becoming England boss and that will be discovering a method to make her side more unpredictable in their methods, while not straying too far away from the structure that has delivered great success during her tenure.
Their confidence may have just taken a hit as they look to add World Cup glory to their Euro 2022 and Finalissima triumphs, but these players have shown time and again that they are up there with the world’s best. And with a talented leader in Wiegman, you can expect England to be hard at work to fix the issues exposed by Australia and turn up to the World Cup as a stronger team for it.