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Winners & Losers

England winners and losers as James shines but Williamson injury casts a shadow over Arsenal following Lionesses mixed international break

11:00 EAT 12/10/2022
England James Williamson GFX
The Lionesses beat world champions United States at a sold-out Wembley on Friday, but were held to a 0-0 draw by the Czech Republic four days later

England could not have played their part in two more contrasting fixtures this week - hitting an incredible high before crashing back down to earth a little bit.

On Friday, they beat the world champions, the U.S. women's national team, in a thrilling game of football that entertained throughout with the exciting attackers on show and, quite frankly, the sloppy defending that went with it.

But Tuesday was quite different. A goalless draw against a Czech Republic side they were expected to beat didn't cause the same stir, neither in the result nor the performance.

So with another international break wrapped up, GOAL picks out the winners and losers from the Lionesses' latest preparation for next summer's World Cup...

  • Sarina Wiegman England Women 2022

    WINNER: Sarina Wiegman

    Wiegman came into the international break with her unbeaten record as England boss about to be seriously tested, as her team faced the world champions.

    However, she emerged with it intact: 24 games played, 21 wins, three draws and no defeats. It maintains the longest ever run without defeat for any England team - bettering the run of 22 games that Gareth Southgate's side achieved from November 2020 to June 2022.

    But it's not the fact her team didn't lose that makes Wiegmann a winner. The victory over the USWNT was a huge statement and massive for this squad's ever-growing confidence. It was a test against one of the world's best sides and perfect preparation for the 2023 World Cup.

    The game with the Czech Republic was nowhere near as enthralling or headline-grabbing, but it was an important match to play. There's no doubt the Lionesses will come up against teams that frustrate them like this looking ahead to next summer's tournament, and this match will be an important one to look back on as they form game plans for those tests.

    Wiegman got exactly what she wanted from this international window.

  • Leah Williamson England Women 2022

    LOSER: Arsenal

    It might have been a successful camp for England in that sense, but it wasn't without negatives. Most of those came in the build-up to the game against the U.S., as three players had to withdraw due to injury.

    Alessia Russo's issue was described as just a "small" problem and hopefully Lucy Parker will not be set back for long with what is a muscle injury. However, there is still no news about the third player to pull out - the England captain, Leah Williamson.

    For the Lionesses, it's a shame but not a debilitating loss at this time in their tournament cycle. For Arsenal, however, it is concerning.

    The Gunners kick off their Women's Champions League group-stage campaign next week in the most difficult place possible - away to Lyon, the reigning European champions and eight-time winners. With Rafaelle, their Brazilian centre-back, having just fractured her foot, Williamson's absence leaves the English side down to two centre-backs as the season prepares to enter its busiest period.

    Given how tough a group Jonas Eidevall's side have got in Europe, to lose Williamson for a significant period of time would be a massive blow.

  • Lauren James England Women 2022

    WINNER: Lauren James

    Wiegman isn't known for making many changes to her teams or handing out appearances for the sake of it. So when the line-up came out for Tuesday evening's clash with the Czech Republic and Lauren James, Chelsea's fleet-footed 21-year-old, was in it, there was some surprise.

    It was as if James played with the thought in her head that these chances are rare and she had to take it, too, as she lit up the pitch every time she touched the ball on what was her full England debut.

    Facing an opposition that were tough to break down, the creativity and directness in her play was a real asset and almost led to the deadlock being broken when she rattled the post in the opening minutes.

    Her night lasted just over an hour but she certainly made her mark in the time she was on the field.

  • Chloe Kelly England Women 2022

    LOSER: Chloe Kelly

    Chloe Kelly was the hero in the summer, the player who is the centre of the defining image of England's Euro 2022 triumph, her celebration after scoring the winning goal in the final hitting the front of every newspaper the morning after.

    However, she is one of many talented wide players at Wiegman's disposal and getting a starting role in this team, ahead of players like Lauren Hemp and Beth Mead, remains a challenge.

    Kelly got a chance to show what she could do from the start in this camp, with the front line rejigged to make up for Russo's absence. But the 24-year-old struggled to get involved in both games, despite being in both line ups.

    There's no question over the talent Kelly has and she'll just hope she can show that more in the next international window. After all, the competition for those forward positions is only growing as players like James start to settle in.

  • Ella Toone Esme Morgan England Women 2022

    WINNER: Esme Morgan

    A year ago, Esme Morgan was called up for Sarina Wiegman's first camp as England head coach and had dreams of making her senior international debut after starting the season strongly with Manchester City.

    But football can be a cruel sport and those hopes were cut short in a painful manner, with a lower leg fracture ruling her out of action for 12 months.

    Fast forward to this week and things came full circle. Wiegman recalled the 21-year-old and, in the second half of the draw with the Czech Republic, she entered the pitch with a beaming smile on her face for that first England cap.

    The smile on the face of Millie Bright, the player she was replacing, said it all, with this just a very nice moment for a fantastic young player and person who has had to work incredibly hard to get herself back here.

  • Ella Toone Fran Kirby England Women 2022

    LOSER: The Toone and Kirby experiment

    England's 2-1 win over the U.S. was a big result, but one of the obvious questions that came from the game was about Fran Kirby's role and how she fits into Wiegman's side.

    On Tuesday, we saw one possible solution for it trialled - the inclusion of both Kirby and Ella Toone in the starting XI.

    We've seen the pair play together before in World Cup qualifiers against lower-ranked sides that England have hit double figures against, but not in games against top sides, as it upsets the balance of the midfield.

    The Czech Republic might not have qualified for a major tournament before, but they are a good team and it was worth seeing if the idea of playing both of these incredibly talented creative playmakers would be a success against them.

    Unfortunately for the Lionesses, it wasn't, reinforcing the idea that having both on the pitch at once really isn't the way to get the best out of Kirby.