What have England learned from recent qualifiers?

England ended their last window of competitive fixtures before this summer’s home European Championship with their unbeaten record intact and a place in next year’s World Cup all-but confirmed.

Sarina Wiegman’s side sit comfortably top of their World Cup qualifying group with two games remaining, having scored 68 goals without reply.

They have not faced a side ranked higher than them in the qualifying campaign but there have been lots for England fans to enjoy.

They capped off their run of competitive fixtures with a 10-0 thrashing over North Macedonia and a 5-0 win at Windsor Park against Northern Ireland – but what have they learned over the last few months?

‘The connections are good’

When Wiegman took over in September she demanded goals.

England delivered 18 of them in their first two games – albeit against minnows in the world rankings – but they still lacked ruthlessness and a little fluidity.

That came in November when England swept aside Latvia to win 20-0 in Doncaster, before heading to February’s Arnold Clark Cup tournament against top European opposition and claiming victory.

Wiegman has consistently pointed to the difference in quality of the opposition in World Cup qualifying but after winning 5-0 at Windsor Park, she described her side’s performance as “mature” and praised their patience in carving out chances.

“The result is great – 5-0 I’m really happy with. I thought it was a mature performance from us,” she added.

“I think we dominated the game as well. We hoped to score a little more in the first half and be a little more clinical but four goals in the second half was very nice.

“We created a lot of chances and it doesn’t really matter who scores. If they block one player, another player steps up. That’s what makes you unpredictable and that’s what we want.”

What will also have pleased Wiegman is that goals have come from all positions. Defender Millie Bright was top scorer in February’s tournament, while youngsters Lauren Hemp and Ella Toone were both on the scoresheet on Tuesday.

Ellen White has now netted 50 goals for England while Beth Mead has scored at least three goals in three separate World Cup qualifying matches.

And despite not being tested hugely, England have kept clean sheets in all seven games in Group D.

“The connections are good. It will be harder to score in the Euros but we see the connections between players and how we want to play,” said Wiegman.

“The level is really high in training sessions so it’s getting clearer. We are aware and grounded that the level is just a little lower against most opponents we have in World Cup qualification.”

Who could be on the plane to the Euros?

Last month, Wiegman said her latest squad selection could be close to the one she names for the Euros.

The selected players have delivered for her with results, they remain unbeaten in all competitions, sit top of their World Cup qualifying group and have scored 72 goals, conceding two in total since her arrival in September.

The former Netherlands boss has not ruled out the possibility of others breaking into the squad but with England set to open the Euros on 6 July, time is running out to make an impression. The starting XI, she said, is not decided yet.

“Lots of things can happen,” she said.

“The competitiveness in this team is so high but we have more opportunities to find the starting XI.

“It is a little early to get the line-up. We don’t have to decide now. We’ve had six international periods and we postpone that decision because we don’t have to make it now.”

However, there are a few players whose place in the Euros squad is all but formalized.

Wiegman has said Manchester United goalkeeper Mary Earps is England’s number one, while Arsenal defender Leah Williamson has been named captain for the tournament.

Elsewhere, Chelsea defender Millie Bright has been a mainstay at centre-back for Wiegman, while forward Mead’s goalscoring form has surely booked her place.

There has also been exciting progression from youngsters Hemp and Toone in particular.

Manchester City duo Chloe Kelly and Steph Houghton will face a race against time to prove their fitness before the Euros but England’s steady performances since Wiegman’s arrival suggests there will not be many shocks in her selection.


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