Sarina Wiegman explains Lionesses’ progression after England retain Arnold Clark Cup

 (The FA via Getty Images)
(The FA via Getty Images)

England boss Sarina Wiegman expressed her happiness with the week’s work after a successful defence of the Arnold Clark Cup was completed with a 6-1 thrashing of Belgium at Ashton Gate.

Needing only a draw to retain the trophy after beating South Korea 4-0 last Thursday and then Italy 2-1 on Sunday, Wiegman’s side took the lead through Chloe Kelly’s finish in the 12th minute and doubled the advantage just before the break courtesy of a header from skipper Leah Williamson.

The second half then saw Kelly, scorer of the winner in last summer’s Euros final, net again in the 50th minute after goalkeeper Nicky Evrard spilled an Ella Toone shot, a Julie Biesmans own goal make it 4-0, and Lucy Bronze and Williamson add late efforts either side of a fine strike from Belgium substitute Elena Dhont.

It made it 25 wins in a 29-game unbeaten record under Wiegman for the Lionesses as preparations continued ahead of the summer’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

The Dutchwoman – who after making nine changes for the Italy match named almost the same XI that had started against South Korea, the only difference being Keira Walsh featuring instead of Jess Carter – said: “Of course when you go into a tournament, whatever tournament it is, you want to win it.

“But what I said also before this week was we wanted to try out some things, we wanted to see lots of players, some combinations of players, and we also wanted to manage load, and that’s exactly what we did.

“I’m happy with this week, with the win but also with what we have done this week and how we have worked together in taking the next steps in preparation for the World Cup.”

Asked if she thought England had been tested enough in the round-robin tournament, in which they played sides ranked between 15th and 20th in the world, Wiegman said: “In some moments we have been tested.

“I think now in possession playing against a lower block we are doing a little better. I think out of possession we won the ball back so much.

“We expect of course in the World Cup that we’ll be challenged more against top, top level countries. These countries we played now are just beneath the world’s top and they are improving very much. We are too. I’m happy with the level where we are at this moment, and of course, we have to improve and really want to.”

Sarina Wiegman was satisfied with England’s work in winning the Arnold Clark Cup (Nick Potts/PA) (PA Wire)
Sarina Wiegman was satisfied with England’s work in winning the Arnold Clark Cup (Nick Potts/PA) (PA Wire)

Wiegman had said on Tuesday that she did “not really know” her strongest starting line-up yet, and when asked if she was any closer to that, she said: “To be honest, in some positions, pretty much if those players stay performing as they do, the chance of not being picked for the first XI is not that high.

“But with some positions I really don’t know yet, and I don’t have to know. We just want to really see them over the next month, at their club, and then we come back in camp again. There’s a lot of competition going on and it’s pretty hard for us to make decisions.”

World number 20-ranked Belgium, Euro 2022 quarter-finalists who did not qualify for the forthcoming World Cup, finished second in the final Arnold Clark Cup table with six points, having previously beaten both Italy and South Korea 2-1.

Boss Ives Serneels said of Wednesday’s contest: “It was a tough match. We knew before the game, without looking for excuses, that it would be a difficult game.

“You play against the team who won the European Championship. I think each member of the England team you can put in the first three in the ranking for each position. And we had some injuries after the first game.

“We hoped that we could do it with the best team we could put on the field, and that was difficult. It was deserved by England.”