England Women seek World Cup qualification
England Women are back in World Cup qualifying action over the next few days as they take on North Macedonia and Northern Ireland.
Here we look at some of the talking points as the Lionesses head into the games in Skopje on Friday and Belfast four days later.
England Women on a high
Sarina Wiegman’s team are preparing for these matches having made a very positive start to the calendar year when they were last together in February.
The inaugural Arnold Clark Cup saw the team play against three fellow 10-top ranked sides, and they drew with Canada at the Riverside Stadium and Spain at Carrow Road before beating Germany 3-1 at Molineux and being crowned tournament winners. It was only a second victory over the Germans in 27 meetings.
Perfect record in Group D
Those results extended England’s unbeaten start under Wiegman, having previously won six out of six World Cup qualifiers.
They will look to add to a 100 per cent record in Group D that has so far featured 53 goals scored, none conceded and the team’s biggest ever competitive victory, a 20-0 routing of Latvia in Doncaster in November.
Currently lying five points clear of second-placed Austria and third-placed Northern Ireland in the six-team pool, England could have qualification for Australia and New Zealand 2023 sealed by the end of this double header.
Home Euros nearing
Players will certainly be eager to impress, with these being England’s last competitive fixtures before Wiegman names her squad for the summer’s home Euros.
Kenny Shiels’ Northern Ireland, who England beat 4-0 at Wembley in October, are among the sides the Lionesses will face in their group at the tournament, along with Austria and Norway.
Earlier this week England’s captain for the Euros was named, with Leah Williamson getting the nod from Wiegman having already skippered during the injury-enforced absence of Steph Houghton, who hopes to recover from Achilles surgery in time for the tournament.
Williamson will not feature on Friday due to concussion protocol, so vice-captain Millie Bright is set to lead the team.
Another milestone for White?
During the Latvia match in November Ellen White became the England Women team’s all-time record scorer, surpassing Kelly Smith, and ahead of these games she is only one goal away from hitting the 50 mark.
Bright told a press conference on Friday: “Ellen is a goal machine, I think everybody knows that, and I think it would be a huge achievement. It has not really been a conversation (among the players) but I’m sure it will be when she achieves it.”