Sarina Wiegman says England are in a “good place” despite being held by Portugal in their final match on home soil before heading to Australia for the 2023 Women’s World Cup.
The Lionesses were frustrated as they failed to find the net and twice hit the bar on their way to registering 23 attempts in front of a 26,267 crowd in Milton Keynes.
“We should have put it in the back of the net. We all know that,” said the England boss, who flies to Australia with her players on Wednesday.
“We created lots of chances, and of course we wanted to score that goal. Today it just wouldn’t go in.
“I think we are in a very good place. We did a lot of things, as individuals and as a team, both on and off the pitch.
“This was the first game after we’ve not seen each other for a long time.”
Wiegman’s side were not at their fluent best, though they had chances to seal victory in the second half.
Georgia Stanway hit the bar at the end of the first half, substitute Alessia Russo was denied by a goalline block from Ana Borges, while Lucy Bronze’s header also hit the bar.
England take on Canada in a friendly behind closed doors on 14 July, eight days before their opening match of the World Cup on 22 July,
Wiegman used 17 players and tried several systems throughout the game at Stadium MK in an attempt to fine-tune plans.
But the Lionesses, whose 30-game unbeaten run ended with defeat by Australia in their previous match, struggled to click for large periods against Portugal and looked frustrated.
Question marks remain over England’s best XI
All eyes were on the team selection as Wiegman had bold choices to make in attack, opting for Rachel Daly and Lauren James over Russo and Chloe Kelly from the start.
But it was a flat first half from England. They lacked energy, presumably impacted by the fact they had not played for several weeks following the end of the Women’s Super League (WSL) season, and were forced out wide for large periods by a stubborn Portugal defence.
Daly should have scored early on though when Lauren Hemp curled in an inviting cross at the back post, only for her to poke the ball wide, while James showed glimpses of quality, combining nicely with full-back Bronze on the right-hand side.
However, it was not until the second half that the European champions started to show spark and their superiority.
Russo’s introduction had an impact as she dropped in deep to link up with James, who moved to the number 10 position and was more effective than Ella Toone had been in the opening half.
The striker had the best of the chances, firing wide on two occasions when teed up by Kelly, as well as being denied by Borges’ block on the line.
In a flurry of chances, Bronze’s header crashed against the crossbar and Kelly also had a shot parried away. Hemp had an earlier chance but she could not get her header on target.
It gives Wiegman food for thought on team selection and what system to play, with England’s opening game of the World Cup fast approaching.
England are not short of talent, even with several key players missing through injury, but finding a way for them to work together remains Wiegman’s biggest challenge – and she appears to be more unsure on how the team will look than she was going into Euro 2022.
Russo and James give strong auditions
Several key players will miss the World Cup through injury including captain Leah Williamson and forward Beth Mead – who were both watching on in Milton Keynes – meaning England will have to adapt in Australia.
They were most effective when they were able to get in behind Portugal’s defence in the second half, with Kelly particularly fruitful out wide.
As the game wore on, England’s connections started to build, and James’ link-up play with Bronze and Russo in particular helped her claim for a World Cup starting position.
The Chelsea forward was one of England’s brightest players, while Daly failed to take her chance from the start as number nine, struggling to have an impact and missing a few opportunities.
Young Manchester City defender Esme Morgan was backed by Wiegman to start at centre-back despite struggling against Australia, but here she showed maturity and composure alongside Jess Carter.
If Millie Bright, who has not featured since March because of a knee injury, does not recover in time for the opening game of the tournament, Morgan has shown she is capable of playing there.
All in all, the shutout provided successful auditions for James, Morgan and Russo, less so for Toone and Daly.
- 5GreenwoodSubstituted forCharlesat 45′minutes
- 8StanwaySubstituted forCoombsat 65′minutes
- 4WalshSubstituted forZelemat 65′minutes
- 10TooneSubstituted forKellyat 45′minutes
- 9DalySubstituted forRussoat 45′minutes
- 11HempSubstituted forRobinsonat 81′minutes
- 24Le Tissier
- 1Teixeira Pereira
- 9Marques Borges
- 19Ribeiro GomesBooked at 90mins
- 15da Silva Costa
- 2Silva AmadoSubstituted forSousa Alvesat 81′minutes
- 14Jácome da SilvaSubstituted forde Jesus Jacintoat 62′minutes
- 11Ferreira PintoBooked at 80mins
- 8NortonSubstituted forTrindade Coruche Mendesat 81′minutes
- 20Ramos Ribeiro Nazareth SousaSubstituted forPalma Capetaat 50′minutes
- 16Abreu de Sousa e SilvaSubstituted forVelosa Encarnaçãoat 62′minutes
- 10Manjenje Nogueira Silva
- 3Sousa Alves
- 4Garcia Rebelo
- 5Gaspar Silva Marchão
- 6de Jesus Jacinto
- 7Santos Marques Rodrigues
- 12Sousa Barros Morais
- 13Figueira Pinto
- 17Silva Seiça
- 18Trindade Coruche Mendes
- 21Palma Capeta
- 22Campos Costa
- 23Velosa Encarnação
- 25de Figueiredo Lima Correia
- Esther Staubli
Match ends, England 0, Portugal Women 0.
Second Half ends, England 0, Portugal Women 0.
Corner, England. Conceded by Diana Gomes.
Attempt blocked. Alessia Russo (England) right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Lauren James.
Diana Gomes (Portugal Women) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Alessia Russo (England) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Diana Gomes (Portugal Women).
Delay over. They are ready to continue.
Delay in match because of an injury Inês Pereira (Portugal Women).
Hand ball by Katie Zelem (England).
Corner, England. Conceded by Carole Costa.
Attempt saved. Laura Coombs (England) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the top left corner.
Attempt blocked. Laura Coombs (England) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.
Attempt missed. Chloe Kelly (England) right footed shot from a difficult angle on the right is too high.
Attempt blocked. Alessia Russo (England) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Katie Robinson.
Attempt missed. Chloe Kelly (England) right footed shot from the right side of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Niamh Charles with a cross.
Substitution, England. Katie Robinson replaces Lauren Hemp.
Substitution, Portugal Women. Carolina Mendes replaces Andreia Norton.
Substitution, Portugal Women. Lúcia Alves replaces Catarina Amado.
Tatiana Pinto (Portugal Women) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.