England 3-0 Belgium: The Lionesses win their first pre-Euro 2022 friendly
England 3-0 Belgium: The Lionesses win their first friendly for Euro 2022 as Sarina Wiegman’s squad begin their final preparations for next month’s home tournament
- England’s first warm-up match before the Euro Championship at home in July
- Squad was announced on Wednesday with some notable omissions
- Goals from Chloe Kelly, Rachel Daly and an own goal ensure Lionesses win
There is no apparent sign that Sarina Wiegman is going to make gestures.
No arms around anyone else when the national anthem is playing. No sentimental place for Steph Houghton in her England squad. A cool, steely look through her gold-rimmed glasses, from the edge of the dugout.
Based on her team’s first warm-up match for the European Championsips, this translates into a much brighter, unencumbered England squad than the team preparing for the World Cup, this time three years ago. The squad was not even chosen when the team lost badly to Canada in Swindon and there was panic in the way they played.
The Lionesses started their final preparations for a resounding start with a victory over Molineux
Sarina Wiegman doesn’t seem the type for sentimental gestures in her management
The spots for the roster have already been decided this time around and the strong side selected against a terribly poor Belgium have simply found a way to get the ball in the hands of their most creative players.
The first half finish left a lot to be desired, given the way Lucy Bronze, the main supplier to the England right, was given the freedom by Wolverhampton to rush into space and select a receiver. Georgia Stranway somehow managed to find none of the curl she planned on a training ground in the Belgian box. Ellen White waved a boot in the fresh air when she got one of two chances. But the goals will come in the coming weeks if England continue to create in this way.
Lauren Hemp revealed why she could be a household name before the summer is out with her light-hearted confidence in possession and superb vision. A ten-yard run preceded a ball that was stabbed with her left outstep to White, whose first shot was palmed away. A clipped ball over Laura Deloose, loosely disguised as her marker, preceded another shot that was saved.
Hemp and Beth Mead on the opposite flank more than make up for the creative component brought to the past by Fran Kirby, no longer a totem presence on the England starting team.
Lucy Bronze got the freedom of Wolverhampton on the right for England
It doesn’t look like Houghton will be overly missed, given how Millie Bright and Lotte Wubben-Moy look completely organised. Bright supplies the diagonal cross-field balls that were a Houghton hallmark.
It was an article of faith for Wiegman’s predecessor Phil Neville that England would play from behind, creating some moments of great danger against better opponents. That matched the legendary ‘England DNA’, although this team is just playing the moment, whether it needs something long or short.
Wiegman made three substitutions at halftime, with Frank Kirby and Beth England arriving just after the hour to replace Mead and White. It was Manchester City’s Chloe Kelly, who broke the deadlock after the break, thrusting into the penalty area with her right foot and firing a shot from her left that was deflected at Amber Tysiak, a Dutch substitute.
Manchester City’s Chloe Kelly broke the deadlock for England after coming after the break
Rachel Daly added England’s deserved second just four minutes after Kelly’s opener
Rachel Daly, one of the other signings in the second half, scored the second and volley a ball that bounced off her path after a corner. Captain Leah Williamson’s sideways attempt off the bar from a weak distance bounced back to the hapless Nicky Evrard in Belgium’s goal to add a third for England in front of a 9,598 crowd.
It was a reward for the patience England had shown when the goals eluded them. Perhaps more is needed. Their opponents in the opening match, Austria, are four places lower than Belgium and are also expected to defend deeply.
The research ahead of us is undeniable. ‘Grip the Nation’ demanded one of the billboards radiating here. But the Dutch coach – who is mourning her own sister, whose death was marked by the black armbands her players wore – seems like a good leader to have such intensity.
She burst out laughing when the third goal came. “I want a recognizable form of play and fighting spirit,” she said. Nothing more complicated than that.