Beth England’s absence from the starting line-up as the Lionesses succumbed to a 2-0 defeat to the USA hosts at the start of the SheBelieves Cup in Orlando has been widely criticised by pundits and experts. The in-form Chelsea striker, whose two goals clinched the FA Women’s Continental League Cup just a week ago, was
Beth England’s absence from the starting line-up as the Lionesses succumbed to a 2-0 defeat to the USA hosts at the start of the SheBelieves Cup in Orlando has been widely criticised by pundits and experts.
The in-form Chelsea striker, whose two goals clinched the FA Women’s Continental League Cup just a week ago, was only brought on in the 78th minute, as a replacement for first-choice forward Ellen White
In front of 16,000 enthusiastic fans, the Yankee supremacy finally told in two intense minutes during the second half as Christen Press’s right-foot curler eluded Chelsea keeper Carly Telford, before Carli Lloyd made it 2-0 from close range to put the game to bed.
Telford couldn’t be faulted; in fact, she was one of the stand-out players in the England team.
But it was Beth England’s absence that caused dismay among fans, reporters and TV pundits.
Alex Scott, a measured and balanced observer who is usually a model of restraint in her analysis, was adamant before the match: “[Beth] is in form, and I’d play her and Ellen White together. Play Beth England! England for England!”
The sixth defeat in nine games for the Lionesses starts to question Phil Neville’s judgement as manager, and rumbles and grumbles are detectable now about his long-term future in the role, if he dogmatically sticks to choices such as Man City’s lofty Jill Scott rather than another in-form midfielder/defender Jordan Nobbs, whose second-half showing as a sub was revitalising.
“It feels as if we are so close, but yet so far, at this moment,” said Neville at the end. “We had chances in the game, opportunities to be ruthless, and we didn’t really commit to it.”
But the biggest judgement call has to be over Beth England. Why could she not have been played as part of a front pairing with White?
“If that had been England, that ball would have been in the back of the net,” said Alex Scott after Georgia Stanway’s corner teed up the Lionesses’ best first-half chance.
England did make a difference when she came on, with an 81st-minute volley flying just over the bar.
“We’re just not at the USA’s level,” said Alex Scott afterwards. “We need to find a winning mentality, but today’s was the wrong team selection. The USA pride themselves on the basics. Beth England should have started. As it was, it was hard for her to get the ball. But if you get the ball to our in-form striker, you’ll get results.”
Next up, Sunday’s England v Japan in New Jersey.