England 3-0 Belgium
As it happened.
On a rather humid looking evening at the Molineux Stadium, with the memories of the victorious Arnold Clark Cup winning match, played in this very stadium, coming rushing back, the Lionesses had the first of three pre-Euros friendlies in front of them.
The Euros squad was only announced the day prior to this fixture, manager Sarina Wiegman and captain Leah Williamson were both quizzed about former captain Steph Houghton’s omission pregame. Whether the squad announcement has been a boost or a distraction will be discovered shortly.
The delayed announcement, coupled with the players not having played for a few weeks, means that expectations can’t be set astronomically high, with this game certainly being used to get into the flow ahead of a rather important summer, beginning in just less than 3 weeks.
With all that said, England should still win.
For England, Lotte Wubben-Moy is the only real wildcard, starting alongside Millie Bright with Bronze and Stokes as the full backs, in front of Earps in goal.
Stanway gets the nod over Toone (and the returning Fran Kirby) this evening in midfield, alongside Walsh and Williamson.
Hemp, White and Mead are the front three.
As for Belgium, former Manchester City player Tessa Wullaert is the most familiar name and likely the biggest threat, with Lyon’s Janice Cayman not involved in this game.
Overall, Belgium are an ever-improving, somewhat unknown entity to most.
Wiegman, in her typically straightforward fashion, says she wants the team to ‘play a lot’ and ‘show on the pitch where we are’, in her pre-match interview.
After one final mention that Steph Houghton has been omitted from the Euros squad and a first look at England’s bold new pre-match shirts in action, we get into the game.
England started well. It wasn’t exactly smooth and flowing but the initiative was there. White and Hemp both pulled decent (but expected) saves out of Evrard in the Belgium goal.
It didn’t take long to notice that rather than playing as a holding midfielder alongside Walsh, Williamson was being allowed to roam with Stanway. And roam to great effect she did. She was everywhere (and was awarded the player of the match).
England continued with great endeavour, but it was all a bit tame.
Stanway had a couple of miscues from around the edge of the box, before White had a contender for miscue of the century, unable to get the ball out of her feet and execute what would’ve been, a remarkably simple finish.
As for Belgium, they looked solid enough most of the time (England’s inability to finish helped) and threatened a couple of times on the counter, after some slight lapses from England.
There was a penalty appeal with 10 minutes to go in the first half, with Delacauw clumsily ramming into Mead, looked like she got a touch on the ball - the referee didn‘t even bat an eyelid anyway.
There was time for Williamson to have two shots blocked- one off the line- before the half was over.
Wiegman’s not one for messing around. Kelly, Greenwood and Daly all on for Mead, Wubben-Moy and Stokes for the second half.
Greenwood almost immediately began to transform the game. Belgium had done a good job at minimising Keira Walsh’s impact in the first half, but Greenwood is playing the passes Walsh wasn’t being allowed to, sweeping the ball in behind to Hemp and Kelly.
Speaking of Hemp, she was absolutely wiped out right on the edge of the box, but the referee must’ve had her eyes closed because she didn’t give it the time of day.
Beth England and Fran Kirby are brought on for White and Stanway at the hour mark.
(Like Kelly, great to see Kirby back playing for England).
Then, finally, via a *massive* deflection off Tysiak, Kelly scores her first international goal and gets England off the mark in the 62nd minute.
Very nice play to cut in from the right-hand side and send a shot goalward. Without the deflection it was never going in, but if anyone deserves a bit of good fortune its Chloe Kelly. I’m sure she (and England) will take it.
Barely 4 minutes later England have a second.
The ball falls to substitute left-back Rachel Daly, after a corner is half cleared, who finishes almost like she’s actually one of the best strikers in the NWSL, thumping it on the volley into the top left corner.
There is momentary panic after Wullaert catches Greenwood out, but then makes a mess of everything after that.
England get a third with just over 5 minutes remaining. As much as Williamson deserved a goal, she can’t quite claim this one. Almost a carbon copy of how the ball falls to Daly, from a half-cleared corner, Williamson rifles a shot which arrives in the goal via quick stops off the crossbar and Evrard’s back.
Much like Kelly, I’m sure she’ll take it.
Earps makes her first save of the game with moments remaining, and that’s about it.
· Williamson. As mentioned, everywhere.
· Hemp. Looked like she was playing in the park with her friends half the time.
· Greenwood. Probably played the best 3 passes of the game.
· Daly. Has a good chance of making herself the starting left back if she keeps it up.
· And finally, not looking completely out of kilter after not playing for a few weeks.
· Ruthlessness. Yes it was 3-0, but it could’ve been at least 6.
· The attendance. 9598. Obviously, it’s a Thursday at 8pm, but the turn out could have
been better with a home tournament in, you know, less than 3 weeks.
· ITV spelling Keira Walsh’s name wrong and getting Belgium’s logo wrong. Sigh.
TO SUM UP
It was a 3-0 win and Belgium aren’t a bad team. England are still unbeaten after 12 games under Wiegman.
England didn’t have to defend much and there was a clear lack of edge but it was to be expected. The next two games (vs Netherlands, then vs Switzerland) as well as of course, the actual Euros, will be more of the time to truly judge.