Key questions facing England ahead of this summer’s World Cup

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England made it two wins from two with victory over Italy in the Arnold Clark Cup and will look to defend their title when the Lionesses face Belgium on Wednesday.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the key questions facing England and manager Sarina Wiegman, five months before their World Cup campaign begins in Australia.

Is Rachel Daly England’s new number nine?

Wiegman admitted she faces a selection headache as she looks to anoint a successor to striker Ellen White, who retired following the Lionesses’ Euro 2022 triumph.

Daly was used at left-back throughout the Euros but has already proven her prowess up front in domestic competition, most recently with Aston Villa in the Women’s Super League (WSL), her 10 goals good enough to share the league’s joint top-goalscoring honours with Manchester City’s Khadija Shaw.

While the 31-year-old – who faces competition from Manchester United’s Alessia Russo – insisted she would play anywhere for her country, fans and pundits alike did not hide their enthusiasm when Wiegman handed her an audition as starting number nine against Italy. It paid off when both goals in the 2-1 victory came from Daly headers.

Could England play with two centre-forwards?

Wiegman has ruled out combining Daly with Alessia Russo up front
Wiegman has ruled out combining Daly with Alessia Russo (pictured) up front (Mike Egerton/PA)

Some wondered if employing both Daly and Russo up front could strengthen Wiegman’s side, but that is one combination the England boss has all-but ruled out, preferring to stick to her successful system.

She told a press conference: “I think they’re both very good strikers and we all know that Rachel is very versatile so she could play in different positions in our team – and that’s very good for our team.

“What we want to see this week is what kind of options do we have and just try it out, so that’s what you saw (against Italy).

“We’ve played some scenarios where we’ve put in two centre forwards but for now, how we play, we wouldn’t start with two at this moment, because I think the way we are playing now we are doing really well.”

Are the Lionesses prepared to handle setbacks?

World number four-ranked England scored 22 goals throughout their European title-winning campaign, while conceding just two. They are undefeated in 28 games and edged out a 2-1 victory over world number one side the United States in an October friendly at Wembley.

While the string of successes certainly bodes well for the Lionesses’ hopes of hoisting a first World Cup come August, there have been few tests of England’s true mettle when things are not going their way.

One rare opportunity presented itself against Italy, who equalised through Sofia Cantore controversially after Barbara Bonansea appeared to cross the byline with the ball in the build-up. Some England players even argued the equaliser itself did not go over the goal line, with no VAR or goal-line technology available.

Emotions ran high in the immediate aftermath but the Lionesses promisingly regrouped, stuck to plan and were able to settle the contest through Daly soon after.

How many years could England dominate?

Chelsea's Lauren James, 20, has been a standout so far this tournament
Chelsea’s Lauren James, 21, has been a standout so far this tournament (Mike Egerton/PA)

Both of Daly’s goals against Italy were set up by young talent: Katie Robinson, 20, making her first start, crossed in for the opener and 21-year-old Lauren James provided the second after netting a goal of her own against South Korea.

Of the 26 England players at the Arnold Clark Cup, 18 – including captain Leah Williamson – are aged 25 or under with 10 no older than 23, suggesting last summer’s success could be the beginning of a dynastic future for the Lionesses.

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