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In Focus: Five key talking points from Austria 0-2 England
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Sean Wilson
Nikita Parris scored England's second goal off the bench
Nikita Parris scored England's second goal off the bench

European champions England secured their spot at the World Cup courtesy of a 2-0 win over Austria to maintain their perfect record in qualifying. 

Alessia Russo opened the scoring in only the seventh minute, firing into the bottom corner after Lauren Hemp headed the ball on for her. 

Substitute Nikita Parris added the Lionesses' second midway through the second half, arrowing into the top corner after Georgia Stanway had played her through. 

The result sees England book their place at next year's tournament in Australia and New Zealand with a game to spare, which will see Luxembourg visit the Britannia Stadium on Tuesday. 

Watertight defence

Not only have England guaranteed themselves top spot in their World Cup qualifying group after nine games, they achieved the remarkable feat without conceding a single goal. 

Each of their nine wins has been to nil and the Lionesses demonstrated their defensive discipline once again against Austria, restricting the hosts to only two shots on target. 

The centre-back partnership of Leah Williamson and Millie Bright utilised in their successful Euro 2022 campaign shone once more and the pair complement each others's games well.

Free-scoring Lionesses

England did not keep nine successive clean sheets in qualifying by playing negatively.

The Lionesses scored a whopping 70 goals in those victories, including 10-0 scorelines away at Luxembourg, Latvia and North Macedonia. 

They even managed an unbelievable 20-0 victory in the home qualifier against Latvia last November in which Beth Mead, Ellen White and Russo all scored hat-tricks and Hemp hit four.

Strength in depth

While record scorer White announced her retirement after the Lionesses won Euro 2022, boss Sarina Wiegman is still blessed with a wealth of options. 

Parris' goal off the bench is testament to that, with this summer's supersub Russo now taking the mantle of first-choice centre forward. 

The quality of the players Wiegman can bring on was a considerable weapon as the Lionesses won silverware earlier this summer and that has not diminished.

A star in the making

Lauren James, younger sister of Chelsea's Reece James,  came on with 11 minutes remaining to make her England debut. 

The forward, 20, showed some bright touches in the closing stages of the game. 

There will certainly be more opportunities for James to demonstrate her considerable talent and this brief cameo may be the beginning of an exceptional international career.

Time to plan ahead

With qualification wrapped up, Wiegman will undoubtedly be looking at how she can maximise the time she has to prepare her side for a World Cup charge next year. 

The final group-stage clash with Luxembourg in Stoke is a dead rubber and perhaps the Dutch tactician will take the opportunity to assess some of her fringe players or try a new system. 

It should be a comfortable victory for the hosts, given their 10-0 win in the last meeting, and Wiegman will be able to experiment without risk of defeat.


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