Wednesday, June 29, 2022

The big calls Wiegman has to make for England’s Euro 2022 squad, from Houghton to Kirby

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England will drop five players from their squad ahead of this summer’s tournament and their former skipper is among those whose place is in jeopardy

Houghton has yet to play under the manager who delayed the announcement of their latest group due to a near death in the family. The guesswork has already begun, however, not least because Houghton started just four WSL games for Manchester City this season through injury and she was forced to leave her last Lioness camp in September 2021 after tearing her Achilles tendon while going 8-0 had injured victory over North Macedonia.

When Sarina Wiegman’s tenure began with a scuffle over England captaincy, there was little doubt that Steph Houghton’s future would remain uncertain ahead of Euro 2022.

There have been rumors that Houghton – who has 121 caps for England – will join the group in an advisory capacity if she is not selected, although she remains “positive” that she will be fit enough to play after she underwent surgery in February when she aggravated the same injury.

Wiegman chose her in the starting group because of “the experience she has, the levels she’s shown before, [and] what she has brought to English football”. It’s now unclear if that will be enough and there’s no shortage of options at centre-back, from Leah Williamson – who officially replaced Houghton as captain in April – to Arsenal’s Lotte Wubben-Moy, Chelsea duo Millie Bright and Jess Carter and the versatile Alex Greenwood.

Not only 34-year-old Houghton will have doubts about her place due to fitness issues, as there are also concerns about Fran Kirby and Jill Scott.

While Scott, who spent the second half of the season on loan at Aston Villa to maximize playing opportunities, wins the race for inclusion, Kirby took her second indefinite hiatus from football in three years in April due to ongoing health issues, this time in related to fatigue.

The Chelsea forward returned at the end of the season and played in the FA Cup final as Emma Hayes’ side beat Manchester City, but it remains to be seen whether she will be physically ready for the rapid changes of a major tournament. Before her last break, she had been called up to every England squad under Wiegman. The England boss admitted she “didn’t want to take any chances with her” but was impressed with her recovery in training.

Manchester City’s Chloe Kelly has also been included in the provisional squad as she continues her return from a cruciate ligament rupture in May last year. The striker immediately impressed after returning in April, although the European Championship may have come too early to count among her seven caps to date.

Jordan Nobbs is absent from Arsenal’s 7-0 win over Aston Villa late in the season with a torn knee ligament, making the battle for midfield spots a little less fierce. With Georgia Stanway, Ella Toone and Keira Walsh all set to be there, there could be a direct shootout between Manchester United team-mates Lucy Staniforth and Katie Zelem for last place.

In an attack with 86 English goals and record scorers Ellen White, Alessia Russo, Beth England, Beth Mead, Kelly and Lauren Hemp, one of Nikita Parris or Niamh Charles could also be left out. Parris has made appearances for more than half a century but has struggled for playing time since his return to English football with Arsenal last summer. Once such a prominent member of the Lionesses team, she still has a chance of ousting Charles, who is just beginning to break through to the senior team.

Everton’s Sandy MacIver is unlikely to make it either, with Aston Villa’s Hannah Hampton and Manchester City’s Ellie Roebuck serving as backups for Manchester United’s Mary Earps.

The Uefa deadline for naming the squad is only Sunday 26 June, after which teams will be allowed to name unlimited replacements in the event of a serious injury or illness – including Covid or close contact with a positive case – until the first game.

England play their first game against Austria at a packed Old Trafford on July 6 before three warm-up games against Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Goalkeeper: Mary Earps (Manchester United), Hannah Hampton (Aston Villa), Sandy MacIver (Everton), Ellie Roebuck (Manchester City)

Defender: Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Manchester City), Jess Carter (Chelsea), Niamh Charles (Chelsea), Rachel Daly (Houston Dash), Alex Greenwood (Manchester City), Steph Houghton (Manchester City), Demi Stokes (Manchester City), Lotte Wubben-Moy (Arsenal)

Midfield player: Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Jill Scott (Aston Villa, on loan from Manchester City), Lucy Staniforth (Manchester United), Georgia Stanway (Manchester City), Ella Toone (Manchester United), Keira Walsh (Manchester City), Leah Williamson (Arsenal ), Katie Zelem (Manchester United)

Forward: Beth England (Chelsea), Lauren Hemp (Manchester City), Chloe Kelly (Manchester City), Beth Mead (Arsenal), Nikita Parris (Arsenal), Alessia Russo (Manchester United), Ellen White (Manchester City)

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