Sarina Wiegman's England face the Netherlands at Wembley on Friday, before travelling to Hampden Park to take on Scotland on Tuesday; England need to finish top of Nations League Group A1 for Team GB to qualify for Paris 2024 Olympics
Friday 1 December 2023 18:28, UK
England take on the Netherlands in the Women's Nations League at Wembley Stadium on Friday evening, with Sarina Wiegman's side knowing that nothing less than a win is needed to keep alive their hopes of winning their group and with it, qualifying for the Paris 2024 Olympics as Team GB.
The Lionesses are currently sitting third in Group A1 after four games, having been beaten 2-1 in September by the Dutch and 3-2 last month by Belgium, who they trail by three and one point respectively.
England end their group stage with a trip to Scotland on Tuesday and must win both of their remaining games to stand any chance of reaching the semi-finals by topping the section.
First up are the Dutch, with Wiegman confirming goalkeeper Mary Earps will captain England on Friday night.
Regular skipper Leah Williamson has been missing for some time with a long-term injury, while deputy Millie Bright has recently been ruled out with an "angry" knee, according to club manager Emma Hayes.
It leaves England short of experienced options defensively, but Wiegman says her side's shape and style won't change in Bright's absence, and that she's happy with the options she's trialled to replace the central defender.
"We thought Millie would make it," Wiegman began. "But we always know the next step - we always think of scenarios and options. We've tried out a couple of things and we'll make a decision and move on."
Speaking about Earps' promotion, she added: "Mary will captain the team. She's played an immense role, which starts with her performances, she's been outstanding in the team.
"That's why she keeps winning all these awards. She's spoken up too, with this thing with Nike and we've made something really positive out of it. It's nice to see there's good attention for goalkeepers."
Meanwhile, the Lionesses have also received a timely boost in the shape of forward Beth Mead, whose first England recall since a lengthy injury spell has coincided with a rediscovery of goal-scoring form for club Arsenal.
"We have lots of players up front in good form," Wiegman continued, when asked about Mead's possible inclusion from the start. "I'm excited she's back, it's like she's never been away. She always has a smile on her face and connects with the group. She's in a good place.
"Really nice goals for Arsenal at the weekend, one in particular was really nice. We have hard decisions to make.
"We went into the Nations League knowing teams are getting better. Teams want to beat England, even more now. We've not got over the line in some games, we want to do better, but that's sport.
"In football, you have ups and downs. We want to go to the high again and that's what we'll try to do against Netherlands."
Even at the age of 23, Lauren Hemp is no stranger to big occasions. She's played in a Euros final, a World Cup final, and on many more standout stages besides.
She's one of England's chief creative catalysts and has the potential to be the point of difference against the Netherlands - she was the instigator for the Lionesses second-half improvement when the sides last met in late September.
Hemp needs to occupy the left wing (occasionally she's used as a wing-back for England), as she does for Manchester City, with Chloe Kelly mirroring on the opposite flank in a 4-2-3-1 formation. England's attacking charges, including Alessia Russo and whomever might occupy the No 10 position - presumably Lauren James - are all better for Hemp's directness and delivery from out wide.
Preparing for a landmark 50th England cap, Hemp said: "It's surreal. To do it at Wembley, there's no better place. Every cap is special to me but to make 50 is incredible. An amazing occasion for me.
"There's a lot at stake; we know as a group what's expected of us.
"When we're put under pressure we usually do the job. The next few years is so important for us, we've all got that desire to reach every major tournament."
Sky Sports' Laura Hunter:
"England won't have expected to find themselves here. With two games to go in their Nations League campaign fate is out of their hands, and that's not a situation that will rest easy with Sarina Wiegman.
"The Lionesses boss is a coach who favours stability and control - this will be uncomfortable territory. She's a very commanding, authoritative character, and that translates in the way she's lead this England team over the past two years or so.
"But results have taken somewhat of a nosedive since the summer's World Cup final loss to Spain - by England's high standards at least - and it's thrown all-important qualification to the Nations League finals into jeopardy.
"Won two, lost two is their record as it stands, meaning Wiegman's side must chase victory against the Netherlands on Friday, and the same against Scotland on Tuesday, plus hope Belgium slip-up in one of their remaining ties in order to usurp them. A dicey mix.
"New era England - post Euro 2022 success - are less familiar with facing adversity, albeit lessons will have been learnt from World Cup final defeat, so it'll be interesting to see how they cope under the pressure of back-to-back must-win games."
England's destiny to get to the Nations League finals is out of their hands following a 3-2 defeat by Belgium last month.
They will need to top the group to go through to the Nations League semi-finals. To guarantee to make it through to next year's Olympic Games, they will have to go through to the final of the Nations League.
England need to win both of their remaining group games to stand any chance of reaching the semi-finals.
Goalkeepers: Mary Earps (Manchester United), Hannah Hampton (Chelsea), Khiara Keating (Manchester City).
Defenders: Lucy Bronze (Barcelona), Jess Carter (Chelsea), Niamh Charles (Chelsea), Alex Greenwood (Manchester City), Maya Le Tissier (Manchester United), Esme Morgan (Manchester City), Lotte Wubben-Moy (Arsenal), Millie Turner (Manchester United).
Midfielders: Grace Clinton (Tottenham), Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Georgia Stanway (Bayern Munich), Ella Toone (Manchester United), Keira Walsh (Barcelona), Katie Zelem (Manchester United).
Forwards: Rachel Daly (Aston Villa), Lauren Hemp (Manchester City), Lauren James (Chelsea), Chloe Kelly (Manchester City), Beth Mead (Arsenal), Alessia Russo (Arsenal).