For a long time, England in the World Cup has been synonymous with failure and disappointment on both the men and the women´s side. In fact, those two words were up until last summer associated with England in any major tournament. However, the Lionesses managed to create history on home soil and finally bring some success for England in a major tournament, winning the Euros by beating Germany 2-1 after extra-time in front of a fully packed Wembley Stadium.
Regarding the World Cup, no England team has managed to win it apart from the men´s team in 1966. Since then, it´s been a story of heartbreak for England.
On the women´s side, the Lionesses did not qualify for the inaugural World Cup in 1991, before making it to the quarter-final four years later.
Following that, there were two World Cups n a row without participation from England, as they failed to qualify both in 1999 and 2003.
Since then England have been a main stay in the biggest international tournament, making it to the quarter-final of the two following World Cups after 2003.
In more recent history, the Lionesses have had their two best runs in the World Cup, though without ever making it past the semifinal. In 2015, they lost in the semifinal to Japan, but made up for it in the third place play-off, beating Germany 1-0 after extra-time securing a bronze medal - their best-ever result in a World Cup.
In the most recent edition, they made it to the semifinal for the second consecutive time, but lost to eventual champions USA, before also losing in the third place play-off to Sweden, finishing 4th.
This time, England will go into a World Cup holding a major trophy after winning their first major tournament on the women´s side, forgetting the previous heartbreak, and creating history. The historymakers will now aim to create even more history in Australia and New Zealand, as the European champions look to conquer the world as well as Europe.
The person tasked with bringing World Cup glory to England is Sarina Wiegman. The Dutch coach was appointed new England head coach in August 2020, taking over in September 2021, succeeding Phil Neville.
She is no stranger to lifting trophies either, as she coached the Netherlands to victory in the 2017 Euros on home soil. Five years later she did the same with England, leading the Lionesses to their first major trophy. In between the two Euros she won, Wiegman also went close to winning the World Cup with the Netherlands in 2019, losing the final 0-2 to the USA.
In addition, she has also won the friendly tournament Arnold Clark Cup twice as England coach, as well as the women´s Finalissima.
Individually she has won the UEFA Women´s Coach of the Year for the 2021/22 season and The Best FIFA Women´s Coach for 2022.
Since taking over England, Sarina Wiegman has turned the Lionesses into a well-oiled winning machine. In fact, out of the 32 games she has been head coach of England, they have only lost once, winning 25 and drawing six games - a record England will hope continues “Down Under”.
Looking at England´s squad for the upcoming World Cup, it´s relatively similar to the squad that won the Euros last year. However, there are some noticeable absences that could make a huge difference to the end result of England´s World Cup campaign.
Most noticeable is the absence of captain Leah Williamson, who suffered an ACL injury in the league game against Manchester United on April 19th. They also have to manage without Beth Mead, who is also recovering from an ACL injury suffered early in the 2022/23 season.
And finally, another absence through injury is Chelsea player Fran Kirby, who has struggled with injuries through most of this past season and did not make it in time for the World Cup.
Despite this, England still have a strong squad filled with a lot of talent and quality, and will be one of the contenders to lift the trophy on August 20th.
These are the 23 players that will represent England in Australia and New Zealand for the 2023 World Cup:
Goalkeepers: Mary Earps (Manchester United), Ellie Roebuck (Manchester City), Hannah Hampton (Chelsea).
Defenders: Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Barcelona), Alex Greenwood (Manchester City), Niamh Charles (Chelsea), Lotte Wubben-Moy (Arsenal), Esme Morgan (Manchester City), Jess Carter (Chelsea).
Midfielders: Keira Walsh (Manchester City), Georgia Stanway (Bayern München), Katie Zelem (Manchester United), Ella Toone (Manchester United), Jordan Nobbs (Aston Villa), Laura Coombs (Manchester City).
Forwards: Rachel Daly (Aston Villa), Chloe Kelly (Manchester City), Lauren Hemp (Manchester City), Alessia Russo (Arsenal), Katie Robinson (Brighton), Lauren James (Chelsea), Beth England (Tottenham)
Best player: Keira Walsh
There is no doubt that the England squad is full of talented players, but none might not be as talented or as important as Keira Walsh.
The then Manchester City midfielder was one of the standout performers for England during last summer´s Euros, earning her a world record move to Barcelona on transfer deadline day.
Walsh is now regarded as one of the best midfielders in the world, and plays a key role in Sarina Wiegman´s England set-up. Her vision, composure and passing ability make her an ideal deep-lying playmaker to dictate the tempo of England´s build-up play.
Alongside Bayern München midfielder Georgia Stanway, Walsh forms a formidable pivot in 4-2-3-1, in which Stanway has the freedom to roam forward and join the attack, whilst Walsh sit a little deeper controlling the game.
As England look to add the World Cup to their trophy cabinet, Walsh will once again be crucial for the Lionesses to succeed.
Player to watch: Lauren James
There are a lot of players one should keep an eye on in this England team for the World Cup, but the one player people might keep an extra close eye on is Chelsea´s Lauren James.
The 21-year old forward comes into her first-ever World Cup campaign on the back of an outstanding season for WSL and FA Cup champions Chelsea.
In the 18 WSL games she played in the 2022/23 season, James provided 5 goals and 2 assists, but she was also a brilliant attacking threat, creating 52 SCA (shot creating actions) and 8 GCA (goal creating actions) for the Blues.
James possesses immense physical strength for her young age, and combines it with elite dribbling skills, ball control, a dangerous drive with the ball, unpredictability, and a lethal shot. These qualities could earn her a starting spot on the right wing or through the middle in a no. 10 role for England, and if not, she will be an incredible option off the bench to change the game.
Group stage head to head:
England have been drawn into group D for the World Cup, and will be accompanied by Denmark, China and Haiti.
The Lionesses have never faced Haiti before, so that will be a new acquaintance for them. They have however faced both Denmark and China on four previous occasions.
Against the former, England have a positive record, winning three out of the four games played and losing one. The last meeting with the Danes in 2019 ended with a 2-0 win for England, avenging the 1-2 they suffered two years prior.
China actually have a positive record against the current European champions, with two wins, one draw and one loss, although they haven´t faced off against each other since 2015. On that occasion, China picked up their third win out of four meetings, winning 2-1. England´s only victory against China came six months prior to the 1-2 defeat in 2015, a game the Lionesses won 2-1.
It´s pretty clear that England must be considered heavy favourites to win group D and progress through to the knockout stages. Their biggest challenger will be Denmark, but it´s expected that England will prove too strong for the Danes and the other teams in the group and top it.
With the big absences of Williamson and Mead especially, it´s difficult to say if England can achieve their dream and conquer the world. Despite this, it´s still expected that the European champions will have a good run in Australia and New Zealand.
A run to the semifinal is well within range for Sarina Wiegman and England, but they will likely have a tricky path. Topping their group could set up a Round of 16 meeting with Olympic gold medalists Canada or host nation Australia, who inflicted the only loss on Wiegman´s team earlier this year. Should they get past them, it could be a repeat of the Euros final against Germany in the quarter-final.
To make the semifinal yet again will be tough for England looking at the potential opponents on the way, and to make it to the final, the Lionesses would have to break new ground.
However, it was only a year ago they broke their duck in the Euros and made history by winning it for the first time ever, so nothing is out of reach for this England team under Sarina Wiegman.