England head to the United States next week to play potentially the three toughest national sides in world football at the moment — bar World Cup runners-up Japan. England haven’t played the newly crowned World Cup champions since before the tournament but have kept two clean sheets in a row against arch enemies Germany.
France have proven somewhat to be England’s kryptonite under both the guidance of Mark Sampson and Hope Powell before him. Eugénie Le Sommer’s strike during the group stage of the World Cup dealt the latest French blow on England, though that feels like such a long time ago now!
Eugénie Le Sommer. pic.twitter.com/dQsnpmpslq
— Our Game Magazine (@OurGameMagazine) June 9, 2015
Sampson has taken arguably his strongest possible squad to the U.S. for three games in just a week against three of the world’s top sides. While predominantly a friendly tournament, the SheBelieves Cup will be another huge boost to women’s football in England if the Lionesses once again prove they can mix it up with the best — particularly France and Germany — with the expectation of a Euro 2017 challenge now just over a year away.
Contrary to the usual routine, players only found out who was/wasn’t on the plane to Florida at 10 am on Monday morning, just two hours before the squad was announced to the public. Why Sampson chose to keep them waiting is unknown but it certainly keeps the players on the toes during preseason training and friendlies.
It’s a big chance for several players; Demi Stokes is once again in the squad and has been a regular under Sampson bar the World Cup itself. Deployed on the wing in front of Alex Greenwood against Germany at the end of last year, it could be a position she finds herself in again given Greenwood and Chelsea defender Claire Rafferty have also made the cut.
Many will also be pleased to see Gemma Davison given a chance against top opponents. With just eight caps, Davison has been criminally underused in the minds of many but has every chance to link up with club teammates Eniola Aluko, Fran Kirby, and new recruit Karen Carney out in the States.
Alex Scott is also in the 23 after her foray into the African outback with Bear Grylls that ran through October and November last year, but after years of guarantee over her spot, Lucy Bronze has well and truly taken the right back position. While that’s no slight on an England legend, it’s further proof of how football is evolving in the country and that Sampson has used roughly 40 players over the course of the last 12 months,
Editor’s note — Scott will be on the upcoming season of Bear Grylls: Mission Survive, airing on ITV in England on March 3.
Though some may have expected more changes given the pool of players available to Sampson, the reality is that out of the players he has used during 2015 and 2016, less than 30 of them are currently tied to the central contracts used by The FA. This unofficially makes the pool of players for a competition much smaller in theory — meaning it’s the usual suspects who head out to the U.S. But with a qualifier against Belgium coming up in April, that could be a big chance once again for the likes of Jemma Rose, Amy Turner, Danielle Carter, and Beth Mead.
While Marieanne Spacey is on U-23 duty in La Manga at the same time as the tournament in America, you can potentially expect to see the likes of Rose and Carter heading to Spain.
England Roster for the SheBelieves Cup
- Karen Bardsley (Manchester City)
- Siobhan Chamberlain (Liverpool)
- Carly Telford (Notts County)
- Laura Bassett (Notts County)
- Lucy Bronze (Manchester City)
- Gilly Flaherty (Chelsea)
- Alex Greenwood (Liverpool)
- Steph Houghton (Manchester City)
- Claire Rafferty (Chelsea)
- Alex Scott (Arsenal)
- Demi Stokes (Manchester City)
- Casey Stoney (Arsenal)
- Katie Chapman (Chelsea)
- Isobel Christiansen (Manchester City)
- Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal)
- Jill Scott (Manchester City)
- Fara Williams (Arsenal)
- Eniola Aluko (Chelsea)
- Karen Carney (Chelsea)
- Gemma Davison (Chelsea)
- Toni Duggan (Manchester City)
- Fran Kirby (Chelsea)
- Jodie Taylor (Portland Thorns FC)