Arsenal’s Jordan Nobbs and Leah Williamson will start for England today as they face Brazil at the Riverside with Beth Mead also likely to lineup in the starting XI.
With the women’s game ‘enjoying’ an international break at the same time as the men’s, all eyes turn to international football.
Jordan Nobbs has been recalled to the England side following her return to action for Arsenal after her knee injury while Williamson has been called up for her 11th cap.
Injuries to Millie Bright, Abbie McManus, Fran Kirby, and Demi Stokes have opened up places for the pair and both are expected to start.
“Picking 25 created a little bit of comfort within the squad,” manager Phil Neville said. “We had to be really ruthless because I wanted the competition and the players to feel the burn a little bit. That’s what I learnt coming out of the last squad.
“I actually love working with 25 because you get to see them all together fighting for the same jersey. But when you have 20 in the squad – we have four training players as well – there is a more intense feeling…It’s that Man United feeling of ‘everyone outside these barriers are trying to do us’ type thing. There’s a real togetherness and I think the players have enjoyed that getting into this squad means [they] have to have played well at club level.”
Neville says he has also been focusing on Beth Mead, convinced she can be world class. “We were quite tough on her coming off the back of the World Cup and she’s answered everything we’ve asked of her.
“In terms of players that score goals and [make] assists, I don’t think there’s anyone like her in our team, she assists and scores in most games that she plays.
“Her delivery, think back to the World Cup, the cross in the semi-final for Ellen [White], she has an impact in every single game now – it’s just the consistency. We saw Megan Rapinoe win the big award the other week; on the big occasion, she delivers.
“That’s the challenge we’ve set Beth. We’ve shown her the stats, the assists, the goals, we’ve said: ‘You can go left or right here. Do you want to do OK, which is what we’ve seen, or go to the next level?”
For Mead, who grew up on Teesside and was with Middlesbrough for six years, playing at the Riverside will be special.
“I owe Middlesbrough a lot,” said the 24-year-old. “Both the place and the club.
“In some ways, you could call it my hometown. I played for the club and studied at Teesside Uni.
“My uncle is a massive Boro fan and I used to go with him to watch the likes of Bolo Zenden and Massimo Maccarone.
“So it will be really nice to get out on the pitch.”
The game on Saturday will help promote the Darby Rimmer MND foundation, which was set up by Steph Houghton’s husband, Steven Darby, who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2018, and his close friend Chris Rimmer, who also has the disease.
Former Arsenal star, Houghton, said: “Stephen is a very positive person and he always wants to help other people so setting up this foundation seemed like the perfect thing to do.
“There’s a perception that motor neurone disease is quite a rare disease but it’s actually not as rare as people might think.
“So one of the first things we discussed was how we could create more awareness of the illness. But there’s also the more practical side.
“For example, money raised by the foundation will go towards supporting the individuals and their families in terms of the care or equipment they might need or in case they need to make any alterations to their home.
“We’d also like to contribute to more research into the illness because at the moment there’s no cure for it.
“Ultimately, we just want to provide more information on the disease and let people know that help is out there, especially for people or families who might feel like they’ve got no-one else to turn to.
“The foundation is there to help people, just like all the other terrific motor neurone disease foundations that already exist.”