England's predicted line-up vs China as Wiegman forced to reshuffle her pack

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The Lionesses ahead of their opening World Cup game against Haiti (Image: Photo by Joe Prior/Visionhaus via Getty Images)
The Lionesses ahead of their opening World Cup game against Haiti (Image: Photo by Joe Prior/Visionhaus via Getty Images)

England face China in Adelaide needing just a point to mathematically confirm top spot in Group D.

But Sarina Wiegman and her side will be looking to confirm their last 16 place in style, against a side who narrowly beat Haiti last time out, albeit with 10 players. Wiegman will have to make at least one change from the side that beat Denmark.

This is due to Keira Walsh staying back at the team base in Terrigal as she recovers from the knee injury picked up against Denmark. But will the Lionesses’ Dutch coach reshuffle her pack again and make further changes against the Asian Cup holders.

Wiegman will hope this is the only game the European Champions have to play without their No.4. Of course, no game at this level is easy, especially without Walsh. But this England team should be positive.

The Lionesses’ may have to be faster and more direct without Walsh’s poise in midfield, but that in turn could make them more chaotic and harder to read. I particularly think Alessia Russo could benefit from this style.

Earps reacts to FIFA Best nomination and on season so far with Man Utd eideziqkeiqhhinvEarps reacts to FIFA Best nomination and on season so far with Man Utd

In terms of Walsh’s direct replacement, although Laura Coombs did well against Denmark, but I would go with Katie Zelem. The Man Utd skipper is naturally comfortable on the ball, brings further set-piece quality to the side and can break up play effectively.

England's predicted line-up vs China as Wiegman forced to reshuffle her packEngland's midfielder Katie Zelem warms up with teammates prior to the Australia and New Zealand 2023 Women's World Cup Group D football match against Denmark (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)

Georgia Stanway may have to play as more of a true ‘6’ and sit a little deeper, but she needs to produce a disciplined display, not only to help the team but also avoid another yellow card. If I were Wiegman, I’d be inclined to take Stanway off around the 60th minute for this reason and then maybe use Coombs’ energy from the bench.

Elsewhere in the team, Alex Greenwood is simply the second best centre-half in this squad and should stay next to Millie Bright. I’m not a huge fan of Rachel Daly at left-back generally, but I see the logic of getting another of England’s best players, in possession, onto the field.

Against the teams they would expect to beat, Daly is able to get forward and sustain attacks and the link-up she showed with Lauren James against the Danes was hugely promising. By the way, James can’t be dropped after an excellent display, so that means Lauren Hemp is likely to miss out again.

So in the end I’m only going for one change to the starting line-up. But both Russo and Toone have looked tired to me in both games so far. Along with Stanway I would consider giving them some rest in the second half, when hopefully England might have the game won or at least have a two-goal lead.

This could give Beth England further minutes and match practice, something that will become even more important as we move into the knockouts. It also might give us a chance to see where Jordan Nobbs is at, having had such a strong finish to the WSL season with Aston Villa.

Jack Lacey-Hatton's England team to face China (4-2-3-1): Earps, Bronze, Bright, Greenwood, Daly, Zelem, Stanway, Toone, James, Kelly, Russo.

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Jack Lacey-Hatton

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