England 1-8 England is not a scoreline you see every day.
The whole scene was perfectly fitting of 2020.
Phil Neville’s Lionesses had just finished their umpteenth in-house friendly of the year, with no proper match having been played since March.
A friendly against Norway was scheduled for Tuesday, December 1, but became yet another to be postponed due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“What we saw today probably confirmed what we thought: there is a long way to go in terms of the young players we have brought in over the last three training camps,” Neville said after the crazy game. It was a message that he reiterated throughout his press conference.
Of Lauren James, Manchester United’s talented teenager who was handed her first senior call-up, he said: “What I’ve seen on this camp is no different than what I see when I watch James play for United – someone with incredible ability, someone with incredible potential, but someone that’s got a lot of work to do.”
Rinsola Babajide, Liverpool’s 22-year-old starlet, received similar comments: dubbed as one who is “not ready yet” but could be “in two or three years’ time”.
“Some people today got exposed because they are not at that level yet,” Neville added. “We will continue to expose them because they have got to put the hard yards in and that’s what I have told them.”
But this was not a game where the senior players battered eight goals past the youngsters. The teams were incredibly even on paper. England captain Steph Houghton was in the heart of the losing team’s defence, after all.
There is only so much you can read into training games, and camps overall, but there were a number of interesting discussion pointsthat could be taken from a rather bizarre match.
One was the formation that the winning side played. Setting up in a 3-4-3, the team wearing England’s blood red away strip sliced through their opposition down the wings.
Lucy Bronze, a naturally attacking full-back, thrived in a wing-back role, while Nikita Parris, who has been playing primarily as a No.9 for Lyon this season, was electric in a narrower position.
England have a lot of depth and a huge talent pool, but that right-sided wide role is one where the general rule does notapply, so this offereda glimpse at a way to combat that, as well as moving Parris into a more central position, which she clearly enjoys.
It was down that side that the first goal came, as Grace Fisk brought down Parris and allowed her to score a penalty.
The other two players in that front three, Beth England and Ella Toone, meanwhile, both bagged hat-tricks. It was another instance of Chelsea star England showing her talent, despite Neville dubbing Ellen White as “still his first-choice centre-forward” after the game.
For Toone, on the other hand, it was a reminder of her progress and that, despite being 21 years old and uncapped, she is ready to play for her country.
Defensively, meanwhile, we were given another look at Lotte Wubben-Moy and Leah Williamson as a duo.
The Arsenal pair were fantastic just before the international break, with the Gunners on the brink of a huge 1-0 win over reigning Women’s Super League champions Chelsea thanks to their partnership, only to lucklessly draw.
On Friday, the pair worked together brilliantly in a back three that was only beaten late on when Keira Walsh drove home a terrific 25-yard strike. Their understanding was clear, their communication brilliant, as they worked in tandem to press and cover for each other, keeping quiet an attack led by White.
Also part of that back three, though, was Millie Turner, the player that came in for most praise from Neville.
The 24-year-old has been a consistent performer in Manchester United’s defence since joining them two years ago, and she is now starting to turn heads in the England set-up.
“Millie Turner can compete at the top level,” Neville said.
“I think in the three camps, she has shown that on and off the field. She has been a breath of fresh air in her performances, an absolute dream to work with.
“She hasn’t got an England cap yet, she’s still got growth to come, but she has really jumped forward.”
It hasbeen a tough year for the Lionesses, but fans and journalists have still seen a number of exciting things from this team.
From Lauren Hemp’s emergence at the SheBelieves Cup back in March, to the fruitful experiment of returning Williamson to midfield in October, and now these results from November’s camp, it has notbeen as wasteful a year as it could have been.
Source : goal.com