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Winners & Losers

Another Wiegman masterclass! Winners and losers as the USWNT are beaten by England at Wembley

23:13 SAST 2022/10/07
England USMNT 2022 split
Lionesses head coach Sarina Wiegman maintained her unbeaten record as the Euro 2022 winners overcame the side that has won the last two World Cups.

The European champions and the world champions served up an absolute thriller on Friday night in front of a sold-out Wembley, England beating the U.S. women's national team 2-1 in a game that was certainly one for the neutral.

It was a friendly by name but an important match in the context of both side's preparation for next summer's World Cup, as they pit themselves against some of the world's best to put themselves in good stead to compete for that trophy.

As expected, it was a game that gave us plenty to talk about. But who came out of it well and what questions were raised? GOAL picks out the winners and losers.

  • Lauren Hemp England USWNT 2022

    WINNER: Lauren Hemp

    After being electric last season, Lauren Hemp didn’t have the break-out summer that many expected, despite her playing a key role in England’s triumphant Euros-winning side.

    At Wembley on Friday, she was in for a change of role, though, and it was one of her best performances in the colours of her national team for a few months.

    With Alessia Russo injured, Hemp lined up as the No.9, held the ball up well, linked up nicely with fellow winger Beth Mead and netted a goal any centre forward would be proud of to open the scoring - her poaching instincts on show.

    There were many more obvious options to lead the line for England in this game - be it Rachel Daly, who has starred there this season for Aston Villa, or one of Chloe Kelly or Beth Mead, who both broke out in the Women’s Super League as strikers.

    However, Wiegman’s surprise choice proved a clever one with Hemp excellent in the position.

  • Rachel Daly England USWNT 2022

    LOSER: Rachel Daly

    When Russo pulled out of the England squad with injury, some thought Daly might get her shot as a No.9.

    The 30-year-old has four goals in three games since returning to her home country this past summer to sign for Aston Villa, including two in a superb performance as her side shocked Manchester City on the opening day of the Women’s Super League season.

    However, she remained at left-back for this match, a role she’s become familiar in with her national team in recent years, but doesn’t occupy at club level.

    That meant the difficult job of keeping the dynamic duo of Trinity Rodman and Sophia Smith quiet, but it also meant something of a missed opportunity for her to shine in an attacking sense.

    With Hemp doing a great job, too, it may have knocked Daly even further down the pecking order in her preferred position.

  • USWNT goal England 2022

    WINNER: The U.S.

    When the U.S. organised friendlies for this international window, they picked two opponents that would give them a serious test in their preparation for next summer’s World Cup - England and Spain.

    However, the player protests amid the latter’s squad means they are without 15 star names for the foreseeable future, which includes next week when the USWNT travel to Pamplona.

    There is still a lot of quality left in Spain’s team, but certainly not as much as there would’ve been beforehand - and certainly not as much as Vlatko Andonovski and U.S. Soccer would’ve anticipated.

    That made this game against England all the more important. With the Lionesses missing their starting No.9 and their captain, Leah Williamson, would they be weakened too?

    Fortunately, they were not. They gave the U.S. the stern test they craved in a thrilling match, which could prove vital going into next summer’s major tournament.

  • Millie Bright England USWNT 2022

    LOSER: Defenders

    This was a thrilling game for the neutral and that was partly down to the fact that both teams looked shaky at the back.

    Without captain and leader Becky Sauerbrunn in the heart of defence, the U.S. didn't look as assured or solid, despite them having two huge talents in there in 22-year-old Naomi Girma and 25-year-old Alana Cook, the defender with a British father who at one time was training with the Lionesses.

    Cook struggled to contain Hemp at times, and she did not get enough on Mead's cross that led to the opener. Meanwhile, Girma had some shaky moments in possession despite looking imperious one-v-one.

    England had their problems, too. Playing out from the back, they were sloppy and caused their own concerns. The full-backs, so attack-minded - indeed, with Daly herself a forward - left gaps for the lively wingers on the U.S. side to wreak havoc in, too.

    The Lionesses were also without their captain at centre-back, Williamson, so some of these moments were understandable. But it was a match that left both coaches with food for thought defensively.

  • Sophia Smith USWNT England 2022

    WINNER: Sophia Smith

    On a night where plenty of headline names lined up for the USWNT, from Megan Rapinoe to Lindsey Horan to Rose Lavelle, this was a match where a young up-and-comer by the name of Sophia Smith announced herself to an even wider audience.

    The 22-year-old has had an incredible year back home in the U.S., scoring 14 goals in 18 NWSL games, as well as another three in the Challenge Cup.

    For anyone in Wembley on Friday or watching along at home who didn’t know about Smith and what a sensational talent she is, they certainly do now.

    The USWNT’s No.11 caused chaos all night for England’s defence, levelling the scores in the first half with a shot rifled into the bottom corner from the edge of the box.

    Her clever movement and great awareness made her one of the most impressive performers on one of the biggest stages she has played on in her young career to date.

    It’s that which makes her one of the most exciting talents in world football, too.

  • Fran Kirby USWNT England 2022

    LOSER: Fran Kirby

    For all the good that Wiegman's tenure as England head coach has brought, there is still one big question that looms. How does she get the best out of Fran Kirby?

    The Chelsea forward is absolutely unbelievable at club level, given the freedom to roam by Emma Hayes and forming a devastating partnership with Sam Kerr as a result.

    However, with her national team, that role doesn't exist and it's unclear how to bring her boundless creativity to the pitch in the Lionesses' set-up.

    Wiegman has tried her in several central roles and out wide, but she doesn't produce the same electricity as she does when in Chelsea blue. On the other hand, Ella Toone, the Manchester United star that usually replaces her off the bench, has thrived in that position over the last year or so.

    Is there a way Wiegman can play Kirby and Toone together? Is there another role that suits Kirby better? What is the solution? It's an easier question to ask than to answer, but if Wiegman can solve the conundrum it'll only elevate what is already a European Championship-winning side.