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England were one of several teams announcing their squads today (Monday 11th May), with Spain and Sweden also revealing their final 23 and Germany their preliminary 27. However, the Lionesses’ was definitely the toughest to predict, as I discussed in a feature last month, and therefore the most interesting once revealed. First, let’s take a look at who made the cut.
Karen Bardsley (Manchester City), Siobhan Chamberlain (Arsenal) and Carly Telford (Notts County).
No surprises in the goalkeeper department as the same three who have been involved for more or less all of Sampson’s reign were selected to travel to Canada. The inclusion of Siobhan Chamberlain raises a few question marks given that she has started just once for Arsenal in 2015, falling behind Emma Byrne in the pecking order, but given the aforementioned point as well as the fact that she started against China last month, not many will be too shocked. The speculation instead focuses on who is likely to be England’s number one this summer. As mentioned, Chamberlain is out of favour whilst Karen Bardsley only returned to action yesterday, for Manchester City in their 1-1 draw with Chelsea, due to a suspension picked up in the opening week of the WSL. Elsewhere, Carly Telford has been in stunning form. There is literally nothing else she can do to persuade Sampson to give her a starting berth in Canada and I’m sure I will not be the only one hoping he does just that. Responsible largely for Notts County’s back line being so strong again this season, even saving a penalty against Birmingham to ensure a point recently, she is the best keeper in England right now.
Perhaps the reason why Chamberlain’s lack of playing time has not really affected her standing with the national team is because there are not really any experienced back-ups to call upon. Rachel Brown-Finnis retired in the summer and, whilst Becky Spencer and Mary Earps have both earned call-ups to the senior squad in the last twelve months, neither have yet made their debuts. This is an issue Sampson could look to deal with before the next major tournament comes around in the form of the Euros in 2017, but it should not matter right now.
Laura Bassett (Notts County)
A key part of one of the best defences in England, Bassett is a solid defender who is extremely sensible at the back with her effective no-nonsense defending. A brave player, willing to stick her head where some players would not put their boot, and a strong one, she will be difficult to beat this summer and should be a starter in my opinion. She is not the fastest player, but she masks this well with great positioning, awareness and tackling that all prevent her from beating caught out at the back. A reliable and consistently good performer who Sampson can trust who also has a great strike from a dead ball.
Lucy Bronze (Manchester City)
After Alex Scott’s right-back position lacked depth so much in recent years, Lucy Bronze has suddenly come into the picture and, instead of just providing cover, is challenging the veteran for her starting berth. Rightly so too, as Bronze is a wonderful footballer technically, with attributes that allow her to also play in the centre of midfield. Her dribbling ability is great, allowing her to bomb down the wing, and her vision to pick a pass or find a teammate with a cross means she offers a lot going forward. Defensively, she times her tackles perfectly nine times out of ten and has the fitness that allows her to defend and attack effectively. Sampson has made the mistake of playing her in central defence a few times recently, with her being used to right-back and her desire to get forward with the ball meaning she gets dragged out of position which opponents can exploit. This is no error of her own, but a tactical, managerial one that cannot be made against big teams this summer. She is a right-back, and a fantastic one at that.
Alex Greenwood (Notts County)
Despite her young age, Alex Greenwood has started life on the international stage exceptionally well, slipping into the England team seamlessly with no nerves about her. Comfortable and confident on the world stage, Greenwood is versatile enough to boast this either in the centre or left of defence, though I believe her talents are best utilised in the latter position as it allows her to get forward and really use that wicked left foot of hers. A great crosser of the ball with a powerful shot on her too, the Notts County defender will be an asset both going forward and getting back for England this summer and is well in with a shout of starting most games.
Steph Houghton (Manchester City)
Another obvious inclusion is the captain, Steph Houghton. Houghton is a tough player with great bravery, never shying out of a tackle, aerial duel or flinching as she blocks a shot. She is also another player with a big influence on the team in terms of character, with her captaincy for both club and country explaining that better than anything. Her versatility means she can play in the centre of midfield too if needed, and this means she’s a great passer of the ball, building from the back to get her team going. Houghton’s awareness is not her best attribute, but fortunately her good positioning often allows her to atone for any errors made as a result and she will be the first name on Sampson’s team sheet, despite recent injuries.
Claire Rafferty (Chelsea)
Whilst Greenwood looked odds on to get into the team, Rafferty’s inclusion was a little less certain given the competition of Demi Stokes. However, the Chelsea player came out on top, and one cannot help but think her flawless performance against China last month helped her pip the Manchester City defender to the spot. Rafferty is a strong and determined player, with an engine that allows her to get forward and back with ease. Whilst many full-backs are better at attacking in this day and age and less effective in defence, Rafferty does not follow this trend as she is one of the best in the world in her position when it comes to her responsibilities at the back, in my opinion. A solid tackler with great strength and judgement, she will keep even the best players in the world quiet this summer.
Alex Scott (Arsenal)
Always going to be in the squad, Scott is an experienced defender with a great engine that allows her to get up and down the pitch constantly to offer support at both ends. She’s fast, rarely beaten in a foot-race and knows how to keep world-class talent quiet. Her crossing ability will be effective in the final third, the Arsenal player has already supplied her fair share of assists domestically so far this season, and her character is a big one in the dressing room as well as on the pitch, where she talks to her team brilliantly.
Casey Stoney (Arsenal)
Stoney’s inclusion is an important one not only for her defensive capabilities, but for her experience too. Whilst the veteran is unlikely to see as much playing time as her fellow centre-backs, she will be good for rotation and significant in the dressing room, helping out the younger players and keeping them confident. On the pitch, she is one of the best in her position anywhere in the world, despite her coming to the end of her career.
Katie Chapman (Chelsea)
Having sat out of the national team for a few years, Katie Chapman is back in the fold after starting the season superbly with Chelsea. Chapman is one of those players who does her job in the holding midfield role, keeping possession and never risking much, but she is also someone who can play a fantastic pass to get things going forward quickly. A great protector of the defence and a determined battler, she will be important in helping her back line against the big teams.
Jade Moore (Birmingham City)
Unlikely to get many starts this summer, Moore is a more than competent back-up player who will be good for rotation this summer. She could feature against the likes of Mexico and Colombia, and she will be determined to do a good job if she is involved. Moore has a lot of energy and is great at running with the ball, getting into those inside channels and causing problems as well as injecting pace in the attack to see her fellow teammates make runs off the ball for her to find with it. She tracks back and battles well in a tackle, never giving up and showing great persistence. Her inclusion will be good for experience too, with her likely to really coming into the set-up when the likes of Scott and Williams make way.
Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal)
This summer will be Nobbs’ break-out tournament. Despite her young age, the midfielder has already captained her side to victory at the Cyprus Cup and wore the armband once more in a friendly against China. She is clearly viewed highly by Sampson and his team, and rightly so as she is one of the brightest young talents in England. With a great first touch, marvellous vision and the distribution to match, when combined with the likes of Jill Scott and Fara Williams, it is difficult to see many teams dominating England in the middle this summer. Nobbs also has some great flair and creativity about her, spotting those opportunities for through balls to give her attackers great supply throughout games. She is another solid midfielder in the making, following in the footsteps of the veterans around her.
Jo Potter (Birmingham City)
Like her Birmingham teammate Moore, Potter is likely to be a back-up player this summer but one who Sampson will trust to call upon. Potter is a very similar player to Williams, distributing the ball well and controlling the tempo of the game, but has less flair about her and more of the battling side we see in Scott. She is a solid and reliable performer who is consistently good in the middle of the park. She rarely makes mistakes, tracks back well and does everything you could ask of a central midfielder.
Jill Scott (Manchester City)
Scott is another player important in all aspects of this England team. From her performances, her voice on the pitch and her influence in the dressing room, she is a key player for Sampson and his side and is another experienced head. Scott is brilliant at the simple things, playing a short pass and keeping possession, but her incredible attitude allows her to do some spectacular stuff too, whether that be beating several players in a row by a combination of ability and sheer determination or making a gut-busting run into the box to get on the ball and find the back of the net. Scott never stops working either and her contributions defensively are therefore just as excellent. She is a huge player in the team and an obvious choice for the squad.
Fara Williams (Liverpool)
After Houghton, I’d guess that Williams is the first name of Sampson’s team sheet for any game that requires a full strength eleven. Her experience is incredible, with her being England’s highest-capped player, and this means her communication in the middle really helps the team out, telling players how much time they have, if they can turn and who is free around them to pass to. She is a great striker of the ball, with a fierce right foot that is deadly both in open play and from dead balls, used for delivering free-kicks into the box dangerously and finding the top corner from direct ones. She is a reliable penalty taker too, and her fighting attitude means she’s a great battler in the middle which is want you want from any midfielder. Quite simply the heart of the team, Williams will star for England in Canada in one of her last major tournaments.
Eni Aluko (Chelsea)
Aluko has not starred much for England in the build-up to this summer’s tournament, but that is a compliment in truth as it shows that, whilst other players have been given chances to prove themselves, Sampson already knows that the Chelsea forward is an exceptional player who he needed in his squad for Canada. With incredible pace, wonderful technical ability and an eye for goal, Aluko will be an absolute nightmare for even the world’s best defenders this summer and is someone England can use well on the counter when playing possession-heavy teams like France. Her work rate is marvellous, meaning she’ll track back too, and she is a confident player who excels on the big stage.
Karen Carney (Birmingham City)
Injuries have affected Carney’s preparation for the summer, but her inclusion was always expected. Carney is England’s only out-and-out play-maker, but if you can only have one then Carney is one of the best you could. Experienced in international competition, winning trophies and playing in different environments, the 100-cap attacking-midfielder will be what makes England tick this summer and teams will struggle to deal with her creativity. If you cut off all her options, she will just run with the ball and make something for herself, and if you try to man-mark her, she will use her great off-the-ball movement to just shake off the attempts and wreak havoc anyway. Carney is another class and will shine in Canada.
Toni Duggan (Manchester City)
Despite injury trouble recently, Duggan’s seat on the plane to Canada was never really in doubt. The Liverpool born forward makes things happen on her own with her sublime skill and desire to get the team going, producing moments of magic to either provide chances, assists or goals to the team. She is a truly spectacular footballer who’s hunger to play this summer is evident from how quickly she has returning from knee surgery earlier this year. Back amongst the goals at the weekend with an equaliser against Chelsea, Duggan will be a player Sampson and her teammates look to when England need some inspiration going forward.
Fran Kirby (Reading)
The only WSL 2 player in the squad, Kirby has been superb since getting into the senior set-up and has been banging in the goals for Reading this season, in double figures already with only a few weeks gone. As well as her goal-scoring, Kirby offers hard-working performances with lots of high-pressing, good dribbling and fantastic passing. She always gets her head up and has great awareness on the ball, with an unselfish attitude to round all this off and ensure she plays for the team, not for herself. With her perfect attitude, incredible talent and trust from her manager, this will be Kirby’s break-out tournament.
Lianne Sanderson (Arsenal)
Whilst there are perhaps better players not in the squad, Sanderson’s inclusion was expected due to her offering the team another dimension. Before announcing the squad, Sampson spoke about his decisions being made with “tactical flexibility” in mind, and this is what the towering centre-forward offers. She can hold the ball up well and is a target for lofted passes forward, either centrally or in the form of wide-play and crosses. A hard-worker and a reliable goal-scorer, she will be used well by Sampson this summer.
Jodie Taylor (Portland Thorns)
The only player not based in England in the squad, Taylor may have only just got into the set-up but she has made a good enough start to justify her inclusion. With four goals in her six games for her country, the American-based striker is enjoying life on the international stage and has a great record domestically of scoring goals in North America. She is another player dealing with injury troubles at the moment, but when she is at full fitness in time for the summer, she will be a real handful with her constant off-the-ball movement as well as the great relationship she has formed with Kirby. A natural goal-scorer who sniffs out opportunities, she will be one of the deadliest strikers at the World Cup when she gets going.
Ellen White (Notts County)
Having recovered from an injury-plagued 2014, Ellen White has started her 2015 season in style, getting amongst the goals immediately and showing that incredible energy and desire that Notts County lacked last year. Having recently earned her 50th cap, White will be thrilled to be on the plane and eager to add to her tally having worked towards this tournament when coming back from injury. She is another striker England possess who loves to press high and work hard for her team, even tracking runners back if needed. She chases lost causes to try and make things happen and is always alert and ready to pounce. She is unlikely to be a starter this summer but, when given her chances, she will take them.
So, who missed the cut? Well, six players included in last month’s China squad missed out on the final 23 – Jessica Clarke, Gemma Davison, Gemma Bonner, Anita Asante, Natasha Dowie and Demi Stokes. Clarke looked a sure bet to get into the team, being a regular for a good while now, but she did not get on last month having started on the bench and has not been in amongst the goals for Notts County this season like she was in 2014. Davison is a player who will feel she deserved to be there given how well she has started the season with Chelsea, scoring three goals already in the league, but Nikita Parris can join the club as she is Manchester City’s top scorer so far this season, but is yet to even receive her first senior call-up.
Bonner must be wondering when her time will come having been overlooked once more despite captaining Liverpool to back-to-back league titles and still only being 23-years-old, and she is right to feel that way as she has been one of the stand-out performers in the WSL over the last couple of seasons. Her Liverpool teammate, Dowie, is a player I am particularly disappointed to see miss the cut too as she has got to be the most consistent player in England, constantly working hard for her team, holding the ball up well and creating chances for others as well as registering herself as a reliable goal-scorer every season. Anita Asante’s omission is perhaps one of the only justifiable ones, as she has not featured regularly for her club, Rosengard, in Sweden this year and therefore other players, such as Chapman who plays the same position, have been able to take advantage by playing well and getting into Sampson’s thoughts more. Stokes is one of the more unlucky players to miss the cut, with a late surge into the team by Rafferty costing her a left-back position she seemed to have nailed on a few months ago.
The squad will not be to everyone’s taste, with certain players included or missing that they disagree with, but few will argue that this is not a strong squad with plenty of dimensions to it which will allow Sampson to tinker with tactics and line-ups throughout the summer. Each player is bound to get the rest needed too with lots of depth in each position to ensure this.
What do you think of the squad? Leave a comment below!
Hi, I’m Ameé, I write reguarly about the English Football League on my blog, A Pitchside View, and also women’s football at A Women’s Pitchside View. If you liked this post, please feel free to rate it and also check out other pieces I’ve written on these sites, as well as on Fanthem. Thank you.
Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Ameé Ruszkai