What can fans expect from England’s send-off?

On Friday 9 June, the FA confirmed that England will play Portugal in a friendly at Stadium MK ahead of their departure for the FIFA Women’s World Cup. The match is scheduled to take place on 1 July, ahead of the Lionesses’ departure to Australia four days later.

Sarina Wiegman’s side will play another friendly ahead of getting into tournament action, though the final match against Canada on 14th July will be held behind closed doors – so fans will flock to Milton Keynes for one last opportunity to watch the national team. But what can fans expect from this send-off match?

The Opponents

England last faced Portugal in 2019, with Beth Mead scoring in the 72nd minute to secure a narrow win for the Lionesses. Of course, Mead won’t feature this summer – as she missed out on the squad following her anterior cruciate ligament injury.

Portugal, also known as the Seleção das Quinas, will too be making the trip to the southern hemisphere this summer. They’ve been placed in Group E, meaning they’ll face the United States, the Netherlands, and Vietnam – so progression to the knockouts will certainly be a tough challenge.

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Francisco Neto’s side were ranked 21st in the latest FIFA World Rankings, which were released on 9 June. A disappointing EUROs campaign saw them finish last in their group, picking up just a point from three matches – though they enjoyed a great run of form after the tournament finished. The Seleção das Quinas won eight consecutive matches, but they’ve struggled recently. They were defeated by Japan and held to a draw by Wales, so they’ll be looking to build some momentum ahead of the World Cup.

Under Francisco Neto, Portugal seem to favour a rather traditional 433 formation – though on occasion, they’ll opt to line up with two strikers and deploy an extra body in attacking midfield.

England’s Form

Ahead of their most recent match against Australia at Brentford’s Gtech Community Stadium, England had avoided defeat since April 2021 – winning 25 of their 30 games under Sarina Wiegman. Unfortunately, the Matildas were able to inflict England’s first defeat under the Dutchwoman as Sam Kerr and Charlotte Grant found the back of the net.

It’s important not to rest on the negatives though, and England have certainly enjoyed plenty of success under Sarina Wiegman. The Lionesses have won the Arnold Clark Cup back-to-back in the last two seasons, and have also added the EUROs trophy to the cabinet after a stunning win over Germany at Wembley last summer. The most recent silverware came in the inaugural Women’s Finalissima, as Wiegman’s side prevailed on penalties against Brazil.

Sarina’s Squad Selection

Sarina Wiegman is one of just a handful of managers to have confirmed her final squad for this summer’s tournament – with the majority simply naming larger, provisional training squads. The Lionesses will be without Beth Mead, as we’ve already touched upon, but arguably a more influential absentee is Leah Williamson, who tore her anterior cruciate ligament against Manchester United.

Maya Le Tissier also misses out despite impressing for Marc Skinner’s Red Devils – though she has been named as a reserve and could be called up to the squad if injury forces another player to withdraw.

But let’s turn the attention to the players who have confirmed their seat on the plane. Sarina Wiegman’s biggest selection headache is likely to come in the form of her starting striker – will she opt for Alessia Russo, Bethany England, or Rachel Daly?

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It is almost unbelievable to think that the latter was Wiegman’s first-choice left-back just twelve months ago, but Daly has more than proved her ability as a clinical number nine. She saw off fierce competition from Manchester City’s Khadija Shaw to claim the WSL Golden Boot with 22 goals in as many games.

For comparison, Bethany England managed fourteen and Russo was able to find the back of the net on just ten occasions. It’s worth pointing out that twelve of England’s goals came in her twelve appearances for a struggling Tottenham Hotspur side – while Russo led the line in a Manchester United side that secured European qualification.

The beauty of this friendly is that it will give Sarina Wiegman opportunity to test out a variety of ideas. But remember: it’s just a friendly, and the starting lineup against Portugal may be drastically different to that named against Haiti on 22 July. Should you wish to buy tickets for the send-off match at Stadium MK on 1 July, they are available for sale here.