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England Women vs Portugal Women. Women's International Friendlies.


England Women 0

    Portugal Women 0

      England 0-0 Portugal: Georgia Stanway and Lucy Bronze hit woodwork but Lionesses held in World Cup warm-up

      Match report as England head off to the World Cup on the back of a goalless draw with Portugal; good chances missed by Rachel Daly and Alessia Russo in their battle for the striker's role; Stanway and Bronze hit bar and post; England's World Cup opener vs Haiti three weeks away

      England's Georgia Stanway in action against Portugal's Carole Costa
      Image: England's Georgia Stanway in action against Portugal's Carole Costa

      England hit the woodwork twice and wasted a series of good second-half chances as they drew their final World Cup warm-up on these shores 0-0 with Portugal at Stadium MK on Saturday.

      With their opening World Cup group game against Haiti just three weeks away, the European champions looked flat during the first 45 minutes until Georgia Stanway diverted the ball against the bar on the stroke of half-time.

      However, a triple change at the break brought improvement, with sub Alessia Russo dangerous but lacking sharpness and Lucy Bronze heading against the post from a corner as Sarina Wiegman's side tried to sign off with a win before flying out to the tournament in Australia and New Zealand.

      Portugal, set to play in their first-ever World Cup this summer, held firm, though, and England now have just a behind-closed-doors friendly with Canada on Friday July 14 to refine their form before the World Cup gets under way.

      How England misfired in World Cup send-off

      One positive for England will be that, unlike in their previous five World Cup appearances, they won't be heading to the tournament on the back of a defeat. Indeed Portugal never looked likely to land a first-ever win against England.

      The hosts started positively, with Rachel Daly - given a start to impress in her battle with Russo for the No 9 spot - making goalkeeper Ines Pereira work from two early headers.

      Stanway later diverted the ball against the crossbar with her knee on the stroke of half-time. But in between England struggled.

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      Rachel Daly started up front ahead of Alessia Russo, while goalkeeper Mary Earps took the captain’s armband in the absence of Leah Williamson and Millie Bright. Alex Greenwood was fit to start after an ankle knock while Georgia Stanway won her 50th cap.

      The visitors - who won eight in a row up until April - found their feet after those early Daly headers, limiting England and enjoying some joy themselves down the right.

      An Ella Toone shot dragged wide from distance, a Daly overhead well-off target, a miscued Alex Greenwood cross onto the roof of the net and a blocked shot from Daly was as threatening as Wiegman's side got until Stanway improvised from Lauren Hemp's cross in stoppage time.

      In response, the manager made a triple change at the break, with Russo, Kelly and Niamh Charles sent on and Lauren James moved to No 10. It transformed England's attacking play - but the cutting edge was still missing.

      England's Alessia Russo had a series of chances against Portugal
      Image: England's Alessia Russo had a series of chances against Portugal

      Hemp headed over a corner and Kelly hit the target from a tight angle but it was during a three-minute burst around the hour mark that England should have gone in front.

      James played in Russo, who went around the goalkeeper but was denied by Ana Borges' covering block. Bronze then headed a Stanway corner against the post and Russo steered a Kelly cut-back wide.

      Russo continued to be England's focal point but a couple of efforts wide in quick succession were followed by a tame saved shot and blocked strike in the final moments as the home side - despite 23 shots in total - failed to find the breakthrough. They will have to be more clinical Down Under.

      Wiegman: We could have gone 3-0 up

      England manager Sarina Wiegman to ITV: "We are disappointed that we didn't score a goal. I think we have seen a lot of things. I think we were too slow in our possession game in the first half. We had too many players behind the ball so when we did pass it forward, we didn't have enough players, but it was also too slow.

      "We did a little better in the second half with players higher up the pitch and in moments we played quicker, and the ball tempo was higher. But there were still moments where we were too long on the ball and running with the ball too much.

      "Although we did create lots of chances, and shots [total] doesn't say everything, but we should have put the ball in the back of the net. We all know that.

      "We just need to do a bit better. I'm convinced we can do better. But if we score a couple of goals no-one says anything. We could have been up 3-0. They didn't really have any chances.

      "That is what is hopeful and when you see we changed a lot of players and they have to adapt to each other again, I think we did those things really well. That looks simple, but it is not simple."

      Questions remain for Wiegman and England ahead of World Cup

      Lauren James moved to No10 in the second half against Portugal
      Image: Lauren James moved to No 10 in the second half against Portugal

      Sky Sports News' Gail Davis at Stadium MK:

      "England had a few questions to answer in this match. In the absence of Millie Bright in defence, who could fill in? Well, Esme Morgan looked composed and assured alongside Jess Carter. Alex Greenwood had a decent first half on the left giving England a bit more of a creative outlet.

      "We know they are Wiegman's go-to trio but Georgia Stanway, Ella Toone and Keira Walsh struggled to get a grip on the midfield in the first half and the England manager will want more from them over the coming weeks.

      "The debate over who starts up front will no doubt continue. Rachel Daly had early chances to stake her claim but Alessia Russo looked bright, energetic and a handful in the second half but - and it is a big but - she failed to finish any of her chances.

      "The Lionesses have one more game behind closed doors to put some of those things right and find their form in front of goal. This was a game they really should have won."

      What's next?

      England have a behind-closed-doors match with Canada on Friday July 14 before their first group game at the World Cup, where they will face Haiti in Brisbane on Saturday July 22 at 10.30am UK BST. Denmark and China are also in Group D.

      When and where is the 2023 Women's World Cup?

      This year's tournament will be held in Australia and New Zealand making it the first-ever co-hosted Women's World Cup.

      The tournament starts on July 20 with the final taking place on August 20 in Sydney at the Accor Stadium.

      The USA are the defending champions and are looking to become the first team in the competition's history to win the tournament three times in a row.

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