Lucy Bronze discusses "unpredictable" change and "irreplaceable" England star

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Lucy Bronze discusses "unpredictable" change and "irreplaceable" England star
Lucy Bronze discusses "unpredictable" change and "irreplaceable" England star

Lucy Bronze believes England's use of their squad at the World Cup is making them "unpredictable."

The Lionesses changed their system for a 6-1 win over China on Tuesday, to book a place in the last 16 of the tournament. Sarina Wiegman deployed a 3-4-1-2 formation, with Bronze and Rachel Daly deployed as wing-backs for the first time.

It was a surprise given the Dutch coach has rarely strayed from her 4-2-3-1 system that proved so successful at the Euros 12 months ago, when England named the same starting line-up for every game. Speaking after a superb performance against China, Bronze stated that the European Champions were always going to have to be more adaptable at this World Cup.

The Barcelona full-back was also delighted to see new players step up for the team, including Lauren James who has lit up the finals with three goals and two player of the match performances and said it was a squad effort that had taken England this far.

"I know how much quality she (James) has," said Bronze. "She has definitely announced herself on the world stage, but this is just the beginning.

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"And it has been more than just LJ. You look at someone like Beth England, she probably thought she wouldn’t play much at this tournament but she has come on in two games and done really well. I know she hasn’t scored but she has still played a huge role.

"People expected us to do the same as we did at the Euros, but I spoke to Sarina before the tournament and we were both saying this would be harder. It was never going to be the same, people wanted it to be the same but tit was never going to be. We’ve had to be adaptable and we have shown we can be."

Lucy Bronze discusses "unpredictable" change and "irreplaceable" England starLucy Bronze of England (Photo by Sarah Reed/Getty Images)

The Lionesses now face Nigeria in the last 16 in Brisbane, knowing a win will take them to their fifth consecutive World Cup quarter-final. But it is still unknown whether key midfielder Keira Walsh will play a part.

Walsh remained back at the team base in Terrigal rather than travel to Adelaide for the final group game, as she recovers from the knee injury she received against Denmark. Although a scan revealed she had not sustained any anterior cruciate ligament damage, she still faces a race against time to get fit.

Any return would raise the question of whether Wiegman would change formation again, to accommodate Walsh. Katie Zelem, partnered Georgia Stanway against China and played well.

But Bronze believes that even though Walsh returning would be a huge boost, it doesn't guarantee another shift in tactics or team shape.

"Keira is irreplaceable, there isn’t anyone who can do what she does in the world," Bronze added. "It’s not just tearing up the formation, you could see in the first two games that we needed the spruce things up a bit.

"It was the same against Portugal. A lot of teams have studied England, they have wanted to beat England being the European champions. We have shuffled things about a little bit and it keeps other teams on their toes.

Lucy Bronze discusses "unpredictable" change and "irreplaceable" England starBronze (right) was full of praise for Lauren James (left)

"They don’t know what to expect, it makes us unpredictable. If Keira does come back and play who is to say how we will play. We might keep this formation with her in it."

Wiegman has yet to name the same XI for consecutive games at this competition and with the likes of Ella Toone and Chloe Kelly on the bench against China, she could tweak things again against Nigeria. But Bronze believes this is one of England's biggest strengths.

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"We need to be unpredictable," she added. "We needed to refresh things, you need that in the knock out rounds. Seven games is like a mini season in many respects.

"We have shown we are capable of changing things which I don’t think many people outside of the group expected us to be able to do. It shows what a good manager Sarina is.

"In the Euros we were able to keep the same team because everyone was fit and firing . We were very fortunate to have that."

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