With the World Cup less than a week away, let’s take a deep look at the 23 players selected by Phil Neville and the squad’s strengths and weaknesses.
13 Carly Telford. I am expecting her to be the number one for the tournament. Carly is an athletic keeper with excellent kicking ability. Her relative lack of game time is not really a problem for selection considering the other keepers had the same difficulties this season.
1 Karen Bardsley will be probably the number two keeper due to her experience and lack of game time for Mary Earps in my opinion. Tournament experience is her main asset alongside her excellent shot-stopping ability.
21 Mary Earps. I expect her to be the number three keeper, although I would rank her close to being the number one. Unfortunately, she did not get as much playing time as she should have with Wolfsburg. Another athletic and explosive goalkeeper.
2 Lucy Bronze is world class, and there’s not much more to say besides the fact that Phill Neville will use her in midfield to fill the hole left by Jordan Nobbs’ injury. Quite an unusual choice by the England manager, but surely driven by her ability to runs forward.
17 Rachel Daly, the versatile striker, will be used during the tournament when Lucy Bronze is not available, rested or used in central midfield. Rachel has been used as a defender through the England youth teams and, even if she plays her club football up front, is still seen as a defender for England.
12 Demi Stokes, the City defender, should be the number one choice after missing out on the 2015 tournament for no real reason under Mark Sampson. An attacking left-back with speed.
3 Alex Greenwood, the United captain, played the whole season in the second tier as a professional player. Extremely reliable, a great technical left-foot and a threat on set pieces.
5 Stephanie Houghton the England captain. She is the first choice on the teamsheet. Houghton had a tough season due to her husband’s health problem but she is an experienced leader on and off the pitch.
6 Millie Bright is a strong and powerful centre-back. Typically very physical and an aerial threat, every team needs one of these old-school English defenders.
14 Leah Williamson had an excellent club season, winning the title, and was consistent throughout. Not sure if she will be the third or fourth choice centre back.
15 Abbie McManus, the United centre-back, has been a regular at City for many years. She can play at full-back or centre-back. She is kind of error-prone at times but has been a regular for Phill Neville.
4 Keira Walsh, the number one choice, is key to building attacks while reading the game well on the defensive side. Can sometimes get in trouble if put under pressure in possession. A player who will be a Lionesses stand-out for many years.
16 Jade Moore is a midfielder who adds a lot of bite and fight. A midfield enforcer needed by every team. Came back in the squad at the right time following a long injury.
8 Jill Scott, the box to bo player, has a lot of experience and knowledge of the game mixed with her ability to be in the right place at the right time. A key player in England’s midfield.
23 Lucy Staniforth, the Birmingham midfielder, managed to grab her opportunity when a place in midfield opened. It will be interesting to see if she gets much playing time.
10 Fran Kirby, the playmaker, is quick, intelligent, very strong technically, and creative. A key player for England who can only count or Kirby and Karen Carney for anything creative.
19 Georgia Stanway is an up-and-coming playmaker. The 20-year-old is one for the future who could influence the game coming on as a sub. She can score goals from outside of the penalty area. Should Kirby not perform well enough, her place could be taken by Stanway.
7 Nikita Parris, the Lyon winger, has had a fantastic season scoring bucketloads of goals and it earned her a move to the Champions League winners. She will need to keep her temper in check and avoid those debatable Tom Daley impressions as referees will be helped by VAR.
20 Karen Carney, an experienced winger/playmaker, who can cover in every attacking position except up front. Has been excellent in recent friendlies coming on as a sub.
11 Toni Duggan, the Barcelona forward, has been a consistent call-up for England and brings a lot of skills, experience, and extra football knowledge as she has been in Spain for many years now.
22 Beth Mead, the Arsenal winger, has been in superb form, finishing as the top assist maker while scoring important goals for club and country. She will be fighting for a starting spot with Duggan on the left-side of the pitch.
18 Ellen White, the Man City striker, has had an excellent season. A hard working, powerful player who can score goals.
9 Jodie Taylor missed half of the season with injuries. At her best, she is clinical, quick and powerful. A complete striker. It’s hard to guess who will be the first choice striker for England.
There are at least 13 stand-bys named for the tournament including one non-playing travelling in the party to France in Ellie Roebuck. They were named by the manager during his press conference while unveiling the squad.
It is interesting to note that Phill Neville is a lot more open about his stand-by list compared to Hope Powell and Mark Sampson who would always hide them to avoid criticism about players being left out. To be honest, some stand-by players look better players than some of made it to the final 23.
GK: Ellie Roebuck, Siobhan Chamberlain, Sandy MacIver
DF: Gemma Bonner, Hannah Blundell, Gabriel George
MF: Isobel Christiansen, Fara Williams
FW: Lauren Bruton, Melissa Lawley, Lauren Hemp, Chloe Kelly, Chioma Ubogagu
England had a few of their back-up/alternate players train with them two weeks ago. Those seven players were Lauren Hemp, Anna Patten, Grace Fisk, Sandy MacIver, Beth England, Alessia Russo, Aoife Mannion.
Five of them won the Bronze at the FIFA u-20 World Cup last summer in France.
Tune in tomorrow night at the same time to read my assessment on England’s chances of winning the World Cup in France this summer.