Talking Tactics: Wiegman’s Lionesses set for Belgium test
England's Women's Euro 2022 squad has been decided — and Sarina Wiegman's charges will be desperate to make an impression against Belgium.
The Lionesses take on the Red Flames at Molineux tonight, with under three weeks remaining until their European Championship campaign kicks off.
And this evening's encounter will offer an insight into their manager's thinking after she decided on her final 23 players for the tournament yesterday.
Ahead of the warm-up clash in Wolverhampton, we take a look at what we might learn from tonight's game.
England's upcoming friendlies will provide an insight into whether Wiegman is still looking to experiment or wants to fine-tune her plans ahead of the tournament.
Ives Serneels' Belgium are ranked 20th in the world and will present a strong challenge for the Lionesses.
It will be fascinating to see which line-up the Dutch tactician names.
A new era
The most high-profile omission from England's squad was Steph Houghton, with her comeback from surgery on an Achilles injury proving to be too late for inclusion.
The former captain missed out on a place in the final 23, despite calls from a number of ex-professionals to include her in the group for added experience.
Wiegman addressed this decision in her press conference yesterday.
She said: "It was a hard decision. She is in a very good place but just not ready to compete. It was just a matter of time and we just don't have that time.
"It is hard for every player we have to disappoint. She is such a big player and has had such an impact on the English game. Of course she was really disappointed.
"I know she did everything to make it, so she wasn't happy. She just took the arguments I gave her and we left it for now and we'll be in contact later.
"It's hard but first of all you have respect for each other and you have open, honest conversations. Of course, it's emotional but the best thing is to give honest answers and give the football arguments and bring that across."
Chance to shine
Lauren Hemp claimed the PFA Young Player of the Year award in 2022 — and with good reason.
The 21-year-old Manchester City forward has been in fine form for both club and country, so heads into Euro 2022 full of confidence.
She is almost certain to start the tournament's opening match against Austria, where she will have an opportunity to truly announce herself on a global stage.
It has the makings of the perfect storm, with Hemp looking ready to take the competition by the scruff of the neck and become its breakout star.
This evening will not be just a warm-up game in her eyes — it will be viewed as an opportunity to build momentum ahead of the first group stage match.
Wiegman made the big decision to leave Houghton out of her squad — but she did name Fran Kirby in it.
The Chelsea forward has had fitness issues this season and took a leave of absence towards the latter end of the campaign, only to return to the Blues' for the FA Cup final.
As a result, it was touch and go whether the 28-year-old would make the cut.
Fortunately for her, she did. But the diminutive attacker is going to have to be managed carefully and this could result in her being used sparingly.
We may see some evidence of that approach tonight, with the 54-cap international starting on the bench before coming on in the second half.
Few teams in the world can boast a substitute of that quality — and it could prove to be a difference-making advantage for England this summer.
Belgium will want to make a statement in this clash against one of the tournament favourites.
And in Tessa Wullaert, the Red Flames have one of the best strikers in the world, with the former Manchester City forward netting an astonishing 26 goals in 18 league appearances for Anderlecht last term.
She will be determined to prove that her spell in England — in which she scored just six times across two Women's Super League campaigns — was not a true representation of her as a player.
Do not be surprised if the 29-year-old makes a telling contribution in this intriguing clash.