England’s friendlies ahead of the 2023 World Cup have shown that they’ve lost the element of surprise that made them so successful at Euro 2022.

During last summer’s tactics, Sarina Wiegman’s side relied on substituions to change the game.

The team started every match of the tournament with the exact same starting eleven, and Wiegman would often bring on the same subs around the hour mark: Chloe Kelly on for B*th Mead, Alessia Russo on for Ellen White, and Ella Toone on for Fran Kirby.

These substitutions, more often than not, changed the game, allowing England to challenge their opponents tactically, and use fresh legs without having a dip in quality. Without those super subs, England don’t win their first-ever international tournament.

Against Brazil during last week’s Finalissima, the Lionesses were unable to cope once their opponent made half-time changes, and were quite lucky to only concede only the one goal in the second half.

Similarly, against Australia on Tuesday, England struggled to find alternate options once it was clear that the visitors were able to contain them. Lauren James and Rachel Daly came off the bench, but neither were able to help inspire the team into a comeback.

The retirement of White, along with the injuries to Mead and Kirby, means that the substitutes that made England such a dominant force are now starting. There is limited options to bring on, and no fresh legs to finish games.

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The good thing is that it is an issue that Wiegman is aware of, with the manager saying after the Australia game: “We still have depth in the team, but now we have more players not available if you compare [to last summer].

“But we don’t want to compare as we’re moving on to the World Cup. We have to make those choices [on the starting XI], and if we have to change, who can impact the game?

“We’re working on that so we’re looking at what it can bring us.”

England will still be one of the favourites heading into the World Cup. But when they come up against the stronger teams, they will need to re-learn how to become unpredictable once again. Super subs are how the team managed to get past their toughest tests during last year’s tournament, including Germany in the final.

Wiegman will have to look at her squad selection carefully as she ponders how to reshuffle her squad to maximise the team’s chance of winning back-to-back major honours.

Proper perspective is crucial when looking at the result against Australia, with the defeat coming after an impressive run of 30 games without a loss, but it does serve as a wake-up call: that England can’t afford to get complacent before getting to show their talent on the world’s biggest stage.

Credit: 90min.com

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