4/6/23 US Ladies Jersey Drop, England vs Brazil Ladies Preview for Thur game, USWNT vs Ireland Sat Apr 8 + 11 TNT, Peacock

Its an all ladies edition of the Ole Ballcoach today as I am fortunate to be headed to the National Team Friendly between England and Brazil at Wembley Thursday night in England. This could provide a quick preview of the World Cup this summer as the European Champion Lioness will be one of the odds on favorites to lift the World Cup down Under cup along with the United States and perhaps Germany and Norway. World Rankings. England defeated the US 2-1 last summer as the US loss twice in a row for the first time ever losing to England then Spain in June friendlies last summer.

Predicted line-ups

England: Earps; Bronze, Willamson, Greenwood, Carter; Walsh, Stanway; Kelly, James, Hemp; Daly

Brazil: Luciana; Bruninha, Lauren, Rafaelle, Tamires; Ana Vitória, Ary Borges, Kerolin, Adriana; Geyse, Bia Zaneratto

England Women v Brazil Women predictions

England made history when they won the 2022 European Championship title at Wembley last summer and the Lionesses return to the national stadium on Thursday with another shot at silverware as they take on Brazil in the first Women’s Finalissima.

The standalone encounter pits the European champions against the champions of South America with Brazil having secured an eighth Copa America last year.But since then Brazil crumbled at the SheBelieves Cup earlier this year, losing to Canada and the USA at the event, and they should be opposed against an England team yet to lose a match under Sarina Wiegman. Under Wiegman, England have gone on a 29-match unbeaten run, winning 25 of those contests, including a win over juggernauts the USA at Wembley in the aftermath of their European Championship success last year. They have also kept 20 clean sheets in that run and with many of the squad eager to please Wiegman in the run-up to this year’s World Cup, the Lionesses should run out comfortable winners, so back them giving up one goal on the handicap – the bet pays out if England win by two goals or more.  Following a decent showing in the Pinatar Cup at the start of the year, Wales Women return to action against Northern Ireland Women in a friendly at the Cardiff City Stadium.

What the coaches say

Sarina Wiegman, England coach: “Playing Brazil – and also Australia – gives us a new measure moment. We expect to be challenged more in defence than we were in the Arnold Clark Cup. That gives us again more information about our team and about where our players are at the moment to move forward in our preparation for the World Cup.”

Pia Sundhage, Brazil coach: “This game is part of the journey to the World Cup. I’m so appreciative and really happy to play against one of the best teams in the world, with the best coach in the world as well. All of us will get some answers after the game. I’m grateful for the opportunity. We have some plans for the game tomorrow. Hopefully we will see a good game.”

USWNT Roster for April 8 & 11 Friendlies vs Ireland

GOALKEEPERS (3): Adrianna Franch (Kansas City Current), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

DEFENDERS (10): Alana Cook (OL Reign), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Emily Fox (North Carolina Courage), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns), Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign), Casey Krueger (Chicago Red Stars), Kelley O’Hara (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns), Emily Sonnett (OL Reign)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Julie Ertz (Unattached), Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon), Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)

FORWARDS (6): Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit), Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns), Mallory Swanson (Chicago Red Stars), Lynn Williams (NJ/NY Gotham FC)

The United States Women’s National Team will have a new set of jerseys when they seek to defend their Women’s World Cup title this summer. With a 1:00am ET release, U.S. Soccer overnight revealed the 2023 USWNT home and away jerseys as part of a timed release by Nike for all of their national teams. The USWNT will debut the new home kits when they take on Ireland in a series of friendlies this Saturday in Austin and next Tuesday in St. Louis.

Courtesy: U.S. Soccer
Courtesy: U.S. Soccer

The home jersey is white with navy and royal dots on it that form a paint drip pattern. The crest returns to the left chest, which leaves space for the 2019 champions patch. The Nike swoosh and the 4 stars above the federation crest are in gold, a nod to the 4 Women’s World Cup titles, and it has a navy collar trim. The inner pride mark celebrates the years of team’s 4 Women’s World Cup titles: 1991, 1999, 2015, and 2019. The jersey is paired with navy shorts and white socks.

Courtesy: U.S. Soccer

The away jersey is royal blue with a monochrome red WNT crest. The stars and swoosh are also red, and there are red blades coming off either side of the collar to signify the tips of stars. It features a stars & stripes print on the sleeve cuffs, The design feels like a wavy blue with what look like red lightning bolts forming the sleeve trim. There’s a darker blue stripe going down the sides of the torso. The top will be paired with blue shorts and socks.

Courtesy: U.S. Soccer
Courtesy: U.S. Soccer

The men’s national team will also wear the away jerseys, ending their run with the 2022 away jersey. However, they are not expected to wear the away jersey until June, with the women not wearing the away until likely sometime during the Women’s World Cup.

How do FIFA’s five best-ranked women’s teams look ahead of final friendlies before World Cup?

7:23 PM CET

In a little more than three months, the World Cup will be kicking off in Australia and New Zealand. With squads being finalised and so little time for changes between now and the start of the competition, how are FIFA’s five best-ranked teams looking ahead of vital April friendlies?

1. United States

Ranked first in the world, the U.S. will be using this window to play the Republic of Ireland — set to debut at the World Cup this summer — twice, first in Austin and then St. Louis. Placed 22nd in FIFA’s latest ranking, Ireland will not provide the sternest test for the reigning world champions, but they will be looking for two matches that ready themselves for the fierce competition level of a major tournament.Although the U.S. are on a six-match winning run, the team has become overly reliant on Mallory Swanson this calendar year. The Chicago Red Stars‘ attacker has been in sublime form, but she has shouldered an unbalanced share of the goal-scoring responsibility of the team.

With all eyes set to be on 30-year-old Julie Ertz this window, the unattached midfielder not having played a competitive minute since August 2021, manager Vlatko Andonovski might end up putting all his eggs in the Ertz basket to solve his midfield woes. Whether she is even at her old level will be the first question that needs to be answered before the rest of the pieces of the puzzle can be slotted into place. With the June window still to come, the Ireland matches are the last opportunities for Andonovski’s midfield experiments.

2. Germany

Playing the Netherlands and Brazil this month, Germany have set up two intriguing encounters that could be used as a measuring stick not just for their own preparations but those of two outside contenders for the World Cup crown.

With just a finite number of stumbles in the past calendar year, Martina Voss-Tecklenburg’s Germany squad is very much one to be beaten, with an ease of interchange between most players, be they coming or going because of injuries, a comfortable revolving door in place.

Expected to win both games this month, the questions for Germany will be how they handle key moments in the games along with Voss-Tecklenburg’s in-game management and whether the coach has finessed the art of acting rather than reacting on the sideline. The biggest key for the Euro 2022 runners-up may just be making it through the final international window before the summer tournament without suffering any serious injuries.

3. Sweden

Inconsistent or even manic at tournaments, it’s hard to know which Sweden team you’re going to get until the ball starts rolling at a World Cup, Euros or Olympic Games, but strong preparation and good results will never go a miss for the Blagult.

Giving themselves two Scandinavian derbies this month, there is a sense that the games will be bigger tests for both Denmark (who they face on Friday) and Norway (their Tuesday opposition) as both of their neighbours grapple with their own problems ahead of the World Cup, yet Sweden coach Peter Gerhardsson will be looking for consistency and fluency in both fixtures.

Although most of his starting XI is quite fixed, there are still cases to be made for his bench and substitute players, which is where younger players like Matilda Vinberg and Hanna Lundkvist can make a late push to be on the plane this summer.

4. England

Up against Brazil (in the inaugural women’s Finalissima, pitting the champions of Europe and South America against one another) and World Cup cohosts Australia, the questions for England and Sarina Wiegman this camp will be centred around the midfield and defence, with a few injuries adding a little pressure to the current starting XI. A usual fan of sticking to a set group of players, the two games will give Wiegman a potential chance to look at the less experienced players in the group like Maya Le TissierEsme Morgan and upcapped Lucy Parker.

Herculez Gomez and Sebastian Salazar debate the biggest storylines and break down the best highlights that soccer in the Americas has to offer. Stream on ESPN+ (U.S. only)

Similarly, with the coach praising versatility by only calling up five midfielders, it’s highly likely we’ll see players moving around to take up central roles and balance the burden, although most experimentation will probably be happening on the training pitch.

Still yet to lose a game under Wiegman, the pressure is mounting on England to continue their streak and not disappoint the two strong expected crowds in London this month. As ever though, two robust performances will be of higher importance than two wins. Indeed, with a handful of players on the periphery, including those who missed out this camp, this will be one of the last chances players have at staking a claim for the World Cup squad.

5. France

Following (another) tumultuous time off of the pitch, the key for newly installed manager Herve Renard in his first two games in charge will be steadying the ship and rapidly getting to know the players available to him.

Hosting Colombia and Canada, the new coach will have the benefit of seeing his charges in two vastly different matches, yet he will have to do so without the vital attacking pair of Marie-Antoinette Katoto (who is still out with an ACL injury) and Kadidiatou Diani (who only just fractured her collarbone) so will be relying on the rest of his attacking group to step up.

Given a pass as he has only just taken charge of the team, Renard’s biggest job this camp will be assessing his new players and finding ways of elevating them as a group, with the bigger picture as important as the nuances of international management. A team who will usually be regarded as favourites for a World Cup or Euro title, this summer will be no different for Les Bleues despite the time crunch Renard is facing.

England line-ups to be less experimental as World Cup draws closer — Sarina Wiegman

Sarina Wiegman

By Charlotte Harpur7h ago

England head coach Sarina Wiegman has promised to experiment “a little less” during her side’s upcoming fixtures against Brazil and Australia as preparations for the 2023 World Cup step up.Wiegman gave minutes to younger members of her squad and tried players in different positions during February’s Arnold Clark Cup, but sees April’s fixtures against two top 10 sides as an opportunity to test England defensively.England play Copa America champions Brazil in the first ever Women’s Finalissima at Wembley on April 6 before facing World Cup co-hosts Australia at the Brentford Community Stadium on April 11.“We will experiment a little less because we have two games and are at a different stage but we are also in a period where we have many games and the load on players is high so we try to manage that too,” Wiegman said. “We will play to win but also to develop. Then we will see what we still want to see and how players come out of the game.“We’re getting closer to the World Cup so you want to get closer to our team selection but it’s still three and a half months to go and still things can happen internationally and at club.“This moment playing Brazil and also Australia gives us a new opportunity. We expect to be challenged more defensively than we were at the Arnold Clark Cup. That gives us again more information about our team and about where our players are at in this moment to move forward in our preparation for the World Cup.”England will be without Millie Bright for the two fixtures after the Chelsea defender withdrew from the squad having sustained a knee injury against Lyon in the Champions League on March 22. Arsenal’s Lotte Wubben-Moy has been called up in her place.Bright, 29, started every game at Euro 2022, but Wiegman said that her absence will enable England to see how they can adapt without her.“Of course I want her to be available,” the England manager added. “She has played so many games for us and Chelsea, she’s not here.“We have our plan B ready for when she’s not available so we will see that. On one hand, it’s disappointing she can’t be here, she can’t play but on the other hand, it’s another opportunity to see where our team is when she’s not playing.”

Hannah Hampton returns to Lionesses squad after sorting ‘personal issues’

TOM GARRY Tue, Mar 28, 20235 min read

Hannah Hampton lying on the turf - Hannah Hampton returns to Lionesses squad after sorting ‘personal issues’ - Getty Images/Catherine Ivill
Hannah Hampton lying on the turf – Hannah Hampton returns to Lionesses squad after sorting ‘personal issues’ – Getty Images/Catherine Ivill

Sarina Wiegman says goalkeeper Hannah Hampton earned a recall to England’s squad for April’s internationals against Brazil and Australia after addressing some “personal issues”.Aston Villa’s Hampton, who had not been selected since last summer’s European Championship, joins the 25-player squad as one of four goalkeepers, with Everton’s Emily Ramsey out injured.Hampton was left out of the Villa squad during the autumn months, too, but has since returned to her club’s starting XI and has helped them win their last four Women’s Super League fixtures.“She needed to sort out some personal issues, she’s done that, and she’s shown great performances, shown consistency and done that at club first, so I felt this was the moment to bring her in,” Wiegman said of Hampton’s return.

Mead needs ‘a miracle’

Wiegman also gave her biggest update yet on the fitness of Beth Mead, who has been sidelined with an anterior cruciate knee ligament injury since the end of November. The Arsenal forward was never expected to be recalled for this camp, but Wiegman has now said it will be “a miracle” if Mead is fit in time for the World Cup, which begins on July 20.“I had conversations with her, she’s doing well in her rehab, she’s doing good,” said the Lionesses manager. “What we said now is, she’s not in our plans now, so just really take the time to get back well, but if a miracle happens, we will reconsider it. But at this moment I don’t expect that.”Wiegman is also worried about the fitness of Fran Kirby, who remains out with an injury. She added: “Of course I’m concerned because she has been out for a while now, and it doesn’t look like she’ll be back in a real short time, but I want to keep this opportunity open. She [Kirby] will be treated how we treat anyone else. Hopefully she gets fit, she gets on the pitch again, she gets playing and then you need to feel performance and fitness and that’s what we need. So it’s a little concern, but we’ll just see how she progresses.”

Notable absentees

There is still no place in the squad for in-form striker Bethany England, who has scored six goals in eight appearances for Tottenham since signing from Chelsea in January, while Arsenal centre-back Lotte Wubben-Moy and Manchester United midfielder Katie Zelem have both been left out of the squad.Houston Dash striker Ebony Salmon has been dropped, with Aston Villa’s Rachel Daly being listed as a striker instead of a defender. Daly, the second-top goalscorer in the Women’s Super League this season, played at left-back for her country last summer but has been deployed as a central No 9 for Villa and started up front for England against Italy in February, scoring twice.England will host Brazil at Wembley on Thursday, April 6, before welcoming Australia to Brentford on Tuesday, April 11. Both friendlies are 7.45pm BST kick-offs.

Nail-biting months ahead for players on the fringes

By Tom Garry

Wiegman’s latest squad of 25 players is still two more than she will be able to name for the World Cup in July, although prior to that she is expected to name a larger, provisional squad in June.For Wubben-Moy and Zelem, both unexpectedly dropped for this camp, the months ahead could now be very nervous ones as they seek to prove they should be flying Down Under.Wiegman said it had been very tough to leave that duo out, adding: “That’s a hard one. It has to do with the plans I have in those positions. The competition for centre-back is really high. Some players can play at full-back but also a centre back. At this moment we chose other players and that’s the same for Katie. We know what she can bring and what she’s done, she’s shown that all the time, but now I make all the choices in that position.”Also left out, despite good form for her club, is Aston Villa midfielder Lucy Staniforth, while there is no recall for Manchester City left-back Demi Stokes, nor Manchester United forward Nikita Parris.For all of them, as the number of game-time opportunities to impress Wiegman reduces, their hopes of flying to the World Cup must now be very low.Overwhelmingly, it is clear that Wiegman’s sole focus is preparations for the World Cup, and there is little room for sentiment in that thought process. Former England skipper Steph Houghton has not been called up by Wiegman since her first camp as head coach in September 2021. Asked if she had considered giving the 34-year-old centre-back an appearance in front of a packed Wembley, Wiegman replied: “I have so much respect for her [Houghton] and I’m happy for her.

Women’s Finalissima 2023 Preview: England and Brazil to Do Battle at Wembley

APR 5, 2023



England and Brazil meet in the first-ever Women’s Finalissima, a one-off game pitting the reigning champions of Europe against South America’s reigning champions. The two sides will do battle in front of a sold-out Wembley Stadium.

Here are the major storylines swirling around each side ahead of the clash.


England head into the first ever Finalissima in comfortable form having smoothly negotiated an Arnold Clark Cup victory in the previous international break against a selection of teams ranked 16th-19th in the world. This match against Brazil will be a sterner challenge though, with Pia Sundhange’s side set to be the highest-ranked team England have faced since they beat the USA in their last match at Wembley.

With only a handful of matches to go before the Lionesses head to Australia for the World Cup, this is not just a showpiece match for England. It will represent one of the few opportunities that manager Sarina Wiegman still has to settle on her starting XI and squad.

A Not-So-Bright Future

The biggest potential challenge to England’s unbeaten run under Wiegman will be the absence of Millie Bright. Bright has featured in 27 of 29 games since the Dutch coach took charge and, despite not always getting the same recognition as some of her peers, has been the lynchpin for this side.

Millie Bright defensive actions Euro 2022

Yet a knee injury sustained in the first leg of Chelsea’s Champions League quarter-final against Lyon has left her ruled for an indeterminate amount of time, leaving England fans nervously checking their calendars as the World Cup looms large. In the short term, Wiegman will be forced to reshuffle her defence against a Brazilian team that boasts the attacking talents of Debinha and Geyse Ferreira.

Bright’s aggressive defensive approach makes it hard to see an exact replacement for her. Wiegman could partner Leah Williamson and Alex Greenwood, but Greenwood has been preferred at left-back recently, and that combination would change the make-up of the defence considerably. Jess Carter has predominantly played at full-back for Chelsea this season but has shown herself proficient at playing anywhere across the back line.

Jess Carter average position map

Of the players called up to the England squad, only Lucy Parker has made more tackles and interceptions per 90 in the WSL this season than Carter. With Parker having never been capped before, Carter would be a logical stylistic replacement for Bright.

The sense that Carter has developed a cool head on the pitch will only have been reinforced by her scoring Chelsea’s winning penalty against Lyon in the UWCL quarter-final.

Who Starts Up Top?

The most immediate question Sarina Wiegman faced following the Euros was how she would replace Ellen White. England’s all-time top scorer announced her retirement in August having started every game on the way to winning the Euros. Obvious bets would suggest that Alessia Russo becomes Wiegman’s first choice, but the season Rachel Daly has had with Aston Villa will give her pause for thought.

Rachel Daly Aston Villa WSL shot map

Daly is currently second in the WSL scoring charts with 13 strikes, and she is averaging a non-penalty xG of 0.42 per 90. Russo, meanwhile, is on eight and averaging a non-penalty xG of 0.40 per 90. There’s really not much between them in the underlying numbers. Russo is just slightly ahead on shots and shots on target per 90: 4.03 and 1.78 to Daly’s 3.47 and 1.25.

Clearly Wiegman feels happy that she has enough cover to potentially just take two out-and-out strikers to the World Cup. She used left-winger Lauren Hemp in the number 9 role against the USA to decent effect whilst Lauren James has also been mooted as an option up front if required.

Whoever starts at Wembley on Thursday will be going up against one of the most in-form defenders in the world in Rafaelle Souza. The Arsenal centre-back has been a key part of the Gunners’ exceptional recent run of form and will be a worthy opponent for whoever gets the nod out of Russo and Daly.

Final Auditions

Wiegman has consistently offered opportunities to players from outside the England set-up. Seven players have made their debuts under her, with a cap surely in line for Lucy Parker whilst players like Laura Coombs have been brought back into the fold.  Yet she is notoriously regimented when it comes to who actually plays, starting the same eleven players for every game in England’s run to the Euros win.

Of the 25 players in the squad for the Finalissima, only 13 or so feel nailed on right now to be on the plane to the World Cup. Players like Katie Robinson and Jess Park (who have 21 and 20 chance-creating carries respectively in the WSL this season) will be looking to show they deserve to make their first-ever tournament squads. Equally Niamh Charles who was cut from the Euros squad at the final hurdle last year will be hoping to prove that her defensive acumen has improved – her 25 tackles won (seventh overall) is an interesting data point in opposition to the eye test that she still struggles defensively.


“What is this team really capable of?” is a question that goes around Brazil all the time when it comes to global competitions. Brazil are an absolute powerhouse on the continental stage – winning eight of the nine editions of the Copa América Femenina – but it is these kind of matches that have been a step too far for Brazil, who always looks on the verge of great things but never quite get there.

However, things are changing within the CBF structure. A combination of the arrival of Pia Sundhage as head coach, the strengthening of Brazil’s domestic league and the increased professionalism that goes into the development and nurturing of talent, this might be the most stable and solid Brazil squad we’ve seen for a while. It boasts a great mixture of experience and youth, even with Marta out for the Finalissima.

A New Way to Win

One of the main things that ex-Sweden and USA coach Sundhage has instilled since she took over in Brazil is a sense of pragmatism.

For years the team has embodied the true DNA of Brazilian football, with flair and expansive play, but that came at the cost of managing matches. There were criticisms that the team were lacking mental resilience.

But now – despite an underwhelming She Believes Cup last February – Brazil have become a more stable team, securing recent results that seemed improbable a few years ago: the win against Norway 4-1 in October along with the draws against Netherlands and Spain earlier this year. These are all examples that Sundhage is moulding this team, allowing them space to express that Brazilian “jogo bonito” but always underlined with a clear objective: get the result. In fact, if the Verde Amarela can snatch the win in Wembley, they will record three consecutive wins against UEFA opposition for the first time since 2016, when they beat Italy (twice) and Russia.

As you might expect though, this more pragmatic approach has been met with some criticism in Brazil. Detractors have labelled this team as “boring” and playing in a style that goes away from the roots of the team. Their 2022 Copa América win, in particular, felt like Brazil were constantly in cruise control, getting the results they wanted but without dazzling.

Bia Zaneratto To Step Up?

As mentioned, Marta won’t be available for selection as she continues her rehab after suffering an ACL injury back in March 2022. Neither will Debinha. With those two absent, Brazil will be shorn of a combined 173 international goals.

However, Sundhage has other options, notably Bia Zaneratto.

Bia scored three goals in the 2022 Copa América, and six more when Brazil also won four years earlier. She doesn’t only provide goals though, with her 31 open-play attacking sequence involvements at Copa America 2022 the most of any Brazil player. That shows how integral she is not only in the finishing of moves but in the build-up of them too.

Brazil Copa America Femenina Attacking Sequences

Tamires The Cornerstone

If there’s anything more Brazilian than flair and confidence on the ball, then it’s a marauding, attacking full-back. Granted, the men’s team have lacked one of those for a while, but in Tamires the women’s side has one of the most attacking full-backs on the continent.

The 35-year-old from Corinthians, who boasts three Copa Américas, two Copa Libertadores, four Brasileiraos, three Paulistaos and two titles in the Danish First Division, is one of the most decorated players in Brazil.

She is a vastly experienced and consistent performer for her national team. Since Sundhage’s arrival, she’s played 41 games for La Canarinha and has played more minutes (3077) than anyone else. She has created 42 chances over that time, putting her third in that regard, and delivered five assists. She’s whipped in 129 crosses from open play – four times more than any other player – and her attacking stats show her importance to the build-up of the team.

But it’s not only in attack that Tamires proves her worth. Since Sundhage’s appointment, she averages 2.9 tackles per game (fourth highest), 1.1 clearances (fourth highest), 2.0 interceptions (second highest) and 5.9 recoveries (second highest) amongst players in Brazil who have played 20 or more games.

Averaging 31 carries per game and 6.7 passes into the attacking third, Tamires has shown time and time again to be one of the most dependent performers for Brazil.

Tamires Crosses Copa America Femenina

Trial by Fire

With Brazil’s first-choice goalkeeper Lorena out with injury, and in a race against the clock to be available for the World Cup, the position in between the sticks is up in the air. Camila (Santos), Leticia (Corinthians) and Luciana (Ferroviaria) have been called up but only the latter has seen minutes since Sundhage’s appointment, and only 90 minutes at that in a 4-0 win against Mexico in 2019.

Elsewhere, Luana Bertocelli (Corinthians) and Andressa Alves (Roma’s second-highest goalscorer in Serie A) have returned after long absences and some young talent – like Ferroviaria’s youngster Aline Gomes – will vie for the last remaining spots as we approach the World Cup.

And that’s perhaps the even bigger story at play. Not only are these two sides in competition for a trophy, something that in Brazil’s case would show they’re worthy contenders at the top of the sport, but these players are all playing for crucial squad spots ahead of Australia & New Zealand 2023.Women’s World Cup 2023: Picking England’s 23-strong squad

Charlotte Harpur and more Oct 24, 202210

England have been drawn in group D at the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, where Sarina Wiegman’s side will face Denmark, China and a play-off winner. But who should make the cut for the 23-strong squad? Who is the one player England really need to be fit next year? And what are the difficult decisions?



The Athletic’s Charlotte Harpur and Florence Lloyd-Hughes debate who they would select. Pick your squad in the comments section below…

Charlotte Harpur’s England squad

Goalkeepers: Mary Earps (Manchester United), Ellie Roebuck (Manchester City), Sandy MacIver (Manchester City)

Defenders: Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Barcelona), Jess Carter (Chelsea), Rachel Daly (Aston Villa), Alex Greenwood (Manchester City), Esme Morgan (Manchester City), Leah Williamson (Arsenal), Lotte Wubben-Moy (Arsenal)

Midfielders: Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Jess Park (Manchester City, on loan at Everton), Georgia Stanway (Bayern Munich), Ella Toone (Manchester United), Keira Walsh (Barcelona), Katie Zelem (Manchester United)

Forwards: Lauren Hemp (Manchester City), Chloe Kelly (Manchester City), Lauren James (Chelsea), Beth Mead (Arsenal), Alessia Russo (Manchester United), Ebony Salmon (Houston Dash)

Florence Lloyd-Hughes’ England squad

Goalkeepers: Mary Earps (Manchester United), Ellie Roebuck (Manchester City), Sandy MacIver (Manchester City)

Defenders: Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Barcelona), Jess Carter (Chelsea), Rachel Daly (Aston Villa), Alex Greenwood (Manchester City), Demi Stokes (Manchester City), Lotte Wubben-Moy (Arsenal), Leah Williamson (Arsenal)

Midfielders: Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Georgia Stanway (Bayern Munich), Ella Toone (Manchester United), Keira Walsh (Barcelona), Katie Zelem (Manchester United)

Forwards: Lauren Hemp (Manchester City), Chloe Kelly (Manchester City), Lauren James (Chelsea), Beth Mead (Arsenal), Alessia Russo (Manchester United), Ebony Salmon (Houston Dash), Bethany England (Chelsea)

Who is the one player England really can’t do without?

Harpur: Keira Walsh makes things tick in England’s midfield. There is no player in the world, let alone in England, who pulls the strings like she does in that deep holding role. She is irreplaceable.

Walsh, EnglandWalsh makes England tick (Photo: Catherine Ivill – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

Lloyd-Hughes: Millie Bright has been exceptional in the last year and is crucial to their defence. She’s become a bit of a trump card going forward, too. She’s been one of Wiegman’s most consistent performers, as has Walsh, and their fitness and form will be crucial over the next year.

Is there an area in which you think England are a bit light?

Lloyd-Hughes: In midfield or at No 9. Alessia Russo doesn’t have the best injury record but England are relying on her quite a lot given Ellen White’s retirement and the inexperience of Ebony Salmon. England have an exciting attacking line but it’s that central presence where they’ve struggled in recent games. The midfield looks light of options if England were to lose Walsh or Georgia Stanway.



Harpur: England lack depth in midfield, hence why I’ve added Jess Park and Katie Zelem. If the starting midfield stays fit then fine, but if injuries creep in, there is a significant gap in the second string in terms of quality and experience.

Walsh, Ella Toone, Fran Kirby and Stanway have built connections over the last year that withstood the toughest pressure during the European Championship. A missing link and a makeshift midfield who have never played in a three together could be exposed in transitions.

Which was your toughest selection call?

Harpur: Leaving out Bethany England. Wiegman picks her players on minutes and form at club level and England is just not getting the game time at Chelsea.

Beth England, England, LionessesChelsea’s England misses out in Harpur’s squad (Photo: Harriet Lander – Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

Lloyd-Hughes: Squad players. If every player is fit, I think England’s starting XI picks itself, based on the Euros success. But as soon as they lose a few through injury, it becomes a lot tougher to fill the gaps and for it to work as effectively.

Who else do you think could make a case for inclusion over the next nine months?

Lloyd-Hughes: Maya Le Tissier and Jess Park. A lot of people were shocked that Le Tissier didn’t make Wiegman’s last squad after the injuries to Leah Williamson and Lucy Parker. Wiegman said she was close but just missed out as others had shown more important defensive qualities. Le Tissier is definitely on the cusp and is having a brilliant season at her new club Manchester United.

Park has been one to watch for a while, having impressed with Manchester City since she was 16. This season, she’s on loan at Everton and has already had a massive impact. Starting regularly and being one of the team’s main attacking outlets will take her game to another level and the performances have already got her a call-up to the senior England squad this year.

Maya Le TissierLe Tissier has played for England Under-23s and could make a case for inclusion in the senior squad (Photo: Aitor Alcalde – The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

Harpur: If Bethany England starts scoring at club level then she may yet earn her spot in the squad. The same goes for Nikita Parris at Manchester United, who was only called up in October following injuries to Parker and Williamson.



Le Tissier has shone on the domestic stage but there is no desperate need for her in the back line. Park’s call-up to the most recent international camp shows she has impressed Wiegman and the England manager will nurture her development.

And finally… how far would your squad go at the World Cup?

Hughes: Well, it all depends on how the draw pans out from the group stage onwards, but I’m confident England can get to the final, injuries notwithstanding. There’s a lot of football to be played between now and July 2023.

Harpur: To the final but some challenging obstacles lie in England’s path. Let’s look at where we’re at in nine months.

Really for her to see her on the pitch, but for now, for us, it’s most important that we play games and that we get prepared for the World Cup. The door Is not closed, but at this moment she’s not in the squad and I chose other players as centre-back.”

Brazil’s Marta is back and ready for her sixth World Cup, still hungry to win and entertain

Meg Linehan Feb 22, 2023

Marta turned 37 years old on Sunday. On that day, she played 38 minutes in a loss to Canada, Brazil’s second match of the SheBelieves Cup and her second appearance on the field since March 2022, when she tore her ACL in a NWSL Challenge Cup match. Hours after the loss to Canada, Marta was serenading her team back at the hotel for her own birthday. Marta has always been one of one, and at this point in her storied career, there isn’t much that has not already been said about the depth of her talent, the legacy she will leave and the magic she has created time and again across the world. But continuing to highlight these things remains important, both to understand exactly what her role is now on this particular version of the Seleção under head coach Pia Sundhage and to take those moments of magic as they come, to hold them up to the light and treasure them for what they are. 

Marta’s still dancing. It looks different now, especially compared to the height of her powers — breaking ankles, impossible angles with any part of her foot, testing the laws of physics and finding them unsuitable for her purposes.Last week in Orlando, her home NWSL hometown, fans cheered her every time she rose to keep warm while on the bench. The anticipation for her return was a tangible feeling in the stands, as fans in canary yellow, Orlando Pride purple and red, white and blue all watched her every move. In unison, they lifted their voices in joyful cheers when “10” finally blinked onto the substitute board, shared that cathartic moment when she took those first steps back out onto the grass at Exploria Stadium, and finally exploded as she took a handful of touches down the wing before feeding the ball across to Debinha for the winning goal against Japan.A rainha had returned.The respect is still there, unabated. Megan Rapinoe told the media on Tuesday, “Marta’s just the greatest player, I think, that’s ever played in our game.” “Marta’s Marta, you know?” said Lynn Williams, laughing as if that explained everything.

After the match against Canada on her birthday, Marta initially asked Brazil’s press officer to stay close to translate her answers from Portuguese to English as she prepared to speak to reporters. But by the time the second question was asked of her, she was already answering herself, intently looking at each reporter with each new inquiry.

For anyone who’s been around women’s soccer for a while, there’s no feeling quite like having Marta’s undivided attention. It’s not just because of the accolades or the thoughts of defenders she’s destroyed throughout the years, but because when Marta fixes her attention on something — even something as mundane as a question she’s probably gotten a dozen times before — you suddenly get a sense of what it’s like to be staring her down when she has the ball at her feet. You want each word to count.

Do you feel the same way now that you did 20 years ago when people cheer your name?

“I still have the passion,” Marta replied. “I’m still hungry to win, doing things on the field for people to keep screaming my name. So yeah. I have the same feeling.”She’ll stop when she doesn’t have that feeling anymore. With her sixth World Cup only months away, and after a long and grueling rehab process when others at this stage would’ve just retired, it seems safe to assume that the feeling is as strong as ever. She doesn’t take the crowds for granted either, or the fact that her mere presence on the field can cause the decibel levels to rise.“It’s something that makes you feel extra motivated every day,” she said. “Because of course, I say I want to do a nice show, outside (of) the field, but most of the time on the field for these people. They deserve that, and we deserve them to be here, and to enjoy this nice moment with us.”

Marta speaking to reporters after the loss to Canada. (Photo: Meg Linehan)

There is a future version of this Brazil team without Marta, the last of a core trio that also included Formiga and Cristiane that defined the Seleção for well over a decade. This new version will still be molded by Marta, though, in the standard she sets on the field, in training environments and more so in all the moments untouched by public eyes.



“Just to give you an example,” Brazil’s head coach Pia Sundhage said after the match against Canada, “when she entered the game, just a couple of minutes afterwards, she was taking two people on the dribble.” But, Sundhage continued, she’s most fascinated by Marta’s technique to find the final pass — a technique that she’s still trying to harness fully. 

“If we have a little bit better timing, a little bit of finishing, those will be goals that come in a couple of months,” she said. “I hope.”

The connection between Sundhage and Marta has been aided by a common language (Swedish), but the two of them crossed paths plenty even before Sundhage took over following Brazil’s round of 16 exit in the 2019 World Cup — one made famous by Marta’s direct, impassioned plea to the young players of Brazil to be ready for their turn on the team.

Marta, for two decades, has been defined by her hunger and a will to win. She has also been defined by her joy.

“It doesn’t matter where you are, she is a pleasure to be around. That energy that Marta has — and she is old — that is contagious,” Sundhage said, smiling wryly as she got in her own acknowledgement of Marta’s birthday in Nashville. “It tells me that it has nothing to do with age, it’s all about how much you love the game. And she does.”

“It’s never just been Marta,” Rapinoe told the media on Tuesday. “It’s been Formiga and Marta and Cristiane and so many other players.” 

While Brazil has always had special players, Marta has that extra shine that sometimes makes people forget.

“Being able to couple that old-head wisdom of Marta with players like Debinha, Kerolin, it’s just crazy. Obviously, they’ve proven it in the league and at the international level,” Rapinoe said. “They’re just really an annoying handful all the time.”

Marta with her teammates before Canada vs. Brazil at GEODIS Park in Nashville. (Photo: Erin Chang/ISI Photos)

So. If you know what Marta can do, how do you prepare to make sure she can’t?


Her return for SheBelieves Cup, even on limited minutes, gives opposing teams a reminder of what she’s capable of, how she can provide a spark from nothing. U.S. head coach Vlatko Andonovski said ahead of the tournament finale that Marta’s return ensured this roster was playing against the best as part of their World Cup preparations, exactly what they need at this point in the year.

“She showed the first game how special she is,” he said on Tuesday. “She comes in and makes a difference, so we expect nothing less against us. She has the quality to change the game on the spot with individual brilliance, and that’s not a secret. She has been doing that for so many years, and it’s exciting to see her back and exciting to play against her.”

While much of the USWNT is familiar with Marta, Wednesday’s match will provide an instructive look at Marta’s current role with the team and another different tactical match-up in Brazil. The opening match against Canada fell a bit flat (and understandably so, considering everything happening off the field for the players during this tournament), and Japan forced the USWNT to problem solve. Brazil could be the heavyweight opponent of the SheBelieves Cup.

“We know (Marta)’s so dynamic, I think a lot of their attacking players, their style of play is so dynamic and a lot of interchange, a lot of movement,” U.S. center back Naomi Girma said on Tuesday. “I think we’re expecting that, and just as much as we can read it and communicate to negate any of their threats, that will be really important for us.”

Owning the tempo of the match and locking down Brazil’s transition game will be key, said Girma. And as for Marta specifically? “She’s dangerous. The closer we can be to her, the more pressure we can get, the better.”

Marta in motion against Canada. (Photo: Erin Chang/ISI Photos)

Williams also expected Brazil to flex their ability to transition. “The last time we played them, they overloaded the right side — and they have Marta, who’s a very skillful player. Being disciplined, being patient, not letting them manipulate our shape and making sure our lines are compact, not letting them play through us.”

The U.S. is the only team in the tournament sitting on two wins, putting them in prime position to three-peat as SheBelieves champs, so they’ll only need a win or draw against Brazil to lift the trophy in Frisco.


“Now, it’s a little bit complicated for us,” Marta said, back in Nashville. “We know that we need to win against the U.S., and do well. But most important for us is to see the players we have here. They have the opportunity to play. No matter who we start the game (with), you’re not gonna see the same team who started the game.”

A win would be nice, but there are also other goals to consider: player development, building chemistry, getting her own minutes up — maybe even a full half, this time around? No matter what, she had a promise.

“I’m pretty sure in the right moment, we’re gonna be ready for everything.”

The Journey to the Cup series is part of a partnership with Google Chrome.

The Athletic maintains full editorial independence. Partners have no control over or input into the reporting or editing process and do not review stories before publication.

The case for and against Julie Ertz’s risky return to the USWNT

Claire Watkins

March 28, 2023


Julie Ertz last played for the USWNT at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. (Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)

U.S. Soccer shook up the international game with one simple announcement on Tuesday morning: Julie Ertz is going to be playing professional soccer in April. The defensive midfielder returns to the U.S. women’s national team roster for the first time since the Olympics in 2021, having also not played in the NWSL since May of that same year.

Ertz battled a knee injury to return to the USWNT in time for a bronze-medal performance in Tokyo, and since then has taken time off for the birth of her son Madden in August 2022.

Prior to her absence, Ertz was a USWNT mainstay as the defensive-minded conductor of the midfield that the team has struggled to replace since the Olympics.

Why the U.S. needs Ertz back

Head coach Vlatko Andonovski’s decision to bring Ertz back into the fold raises questions about the team’s inability to imagine a future without her. The team has relied heavily on the Washington Spirit’s Andi Sullivan in a similar role with varied results. Sullivan is a possession-style player, which differs from Ertz’s ability to cover an immense amount of space defensively. The U.S. also tried Kristie Mewis, Lindsey Horan and Taylor Kornieck in similar roles, playing more attacking-minded midfielders out of their natural positions.

Andonovski’s U.S. has experimented with help defense in the seams between the central defense and the attacking midfield, but it has never quite committed to the dual-No. 6 pivot likely necessary to fill defensive gaps and move the ball forward consistently. In some games, like the USWNT’s SheBelieves match against Canada, the current midfield has looked fluid and effective. But in others, like the USWNT’s SheBelieves match against Japan and friendlies against top European sides in 2022, the middle of the pitch became an area of weakness.

“We’re excited to have Julie back. We know the quality of the player that she is, and that if she comes anywhere near her best, she will certainly help us win a World Cup,” Andonovski told the media after the roster announcement.

The coach’s statement is as much an encouraging sign as an acknowledgement that the team still needs a bruising defensive midfielder who can disrupt and re-distribute.

Ertz not only has the ability to progress the ball through short and simple passes, but she can also recover turnovers that occur in front of her when she is in full control of her explosiveness. Horan, Rose Lavelle and Ashley Sanchez have the creativity in the attacking midfield to draw defenders in and create space for the USWNT’s arsenal of winger talent, but when the ball is misplaced, the team has struggled in defensive transition. When you play high-risk, high-reward passes, you have to have a plan for how to adjust when challenged, and a healthy Ertz papers over the cracks in the system.img

Ertz, Emily Sonnett and other USWNT veterans will appear in April camp after dealing with injuries. (Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

The unknowns of Ertz’s return

Despite the optimism surrounding the announcement, there’s actually no guarantee Ertz is fully healthy, though Andonovski expressed full confidence in her high-performance setup.

“I had a chance to see some of the training and firsthand, training with MLS Academy boys,” he said. “She trained with a personal high-performance coach, or personal technical coach, and was up to the level that a lot of professional players were training, or sometimes even harder.”

Despite her extensive personal training, Ertz hasn’t played a professional soccer game in over 600 days, something Andonovski said she is trying to rectify. The 30-year-old now becomes the highest-profile NWSL free agent still on the market. What her sprint speed looks like, how her touch on the ball adjusts, and how many minutes she can play at the highest level will determine whether the benefits of bringing her back outweigh the costs.

Calling into camp a player who has not trained with a club team for so long flies in the face of Andonovski’s repeated claims that current form matters when making roster decisions. The U.S. has spent months building a young group into a new core for both the present and the future, and inserting a very different type of player threatens to upset the delicate balance of roster personalities.

But also, if Julie Ertz is available, how do you say no?

“If somebody’s 80 or 90 percent is still better than somebody else’s best, then too bad,” Andonovski said. “Anyone that will help us win the World Cup will be considered.”

Those cases have to be considered carefully, he continued, with the understanding that the team can’t carry too many injuries into a grueling international tournament like the World Cup. But since the current squad has been unable to find a definitive answer for a position of need, all other options will be considered.

Ultimately, the decision to bring Ertz in as a defensive specialist and a leader might be exactly what the U.S. needs. Or it could further imbalance a roster on a tight-rope act between the past and the future.

“As everyone else, she will have to earn some minutes,” Andonovski said. “Nothing is going to be given.”

Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.

Save 20% on the Succulent Ribs at Rackz BarBQ when you mention the Ole Ballcoach – Corner of 131 & Hazelldell. – Call 317-688-7290.

=====================RackZ BAR BBQ ======Save 20% ======================

Earn your Degree While You Watch Your Kids Soccer Practice – ½ the time and cost of Traditional Schools

Rent this Beautiful 4 BR Beach house at Myrtle Beach for as low at $250 a night.

Proud Member of Indy’s Brick Yard Battalion – http://www.brickyardbattalion.com – CLICK HERE FOR BYBTIX

American Outlaws  http://www.facebook.com/IndyAOUnite


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.