Did England’s draw with Portugal provide more questions than answers?

England travel to Australia in four days’ time for the Women’s World Cup, but a disappointing goalless draw with Portugal leaves plenty for manager Sarina Wiegman to ponder.

Team selection, a preferred system and whether injured players will return to fitness in time for the competition, are among the key questions as the Lionesses’ preparation ramps up.

Wiegman’s starting XI for England’s final send-off game on home soil raised eyebrows when she selected Aston Villa striker Rachel Daly ahead of regular number nine Alessia Russo.

There was also a starting place for Chelsea’s talented winger Lauren James, while in-form Manchester City forward Chloe Kelly sat on the bench.

There were also tweaks in defence as Wiegman assessed her options without her injured captain Millie Bright. Centre-back Alex Greenwood played left-back for 45 minutes, while Esme Morgan and Jess Carter formed an unfamiliar partnership.

But a flat performance lacking fluidity and goals, suggested there are still plenty of decisions Wiegman needs to make before England’s World Cup opener against Haita on 22 July.

Asked whether she felt there were more questions than answers, Wiegman said: “Oh, more answers. And answers already give another question of course because we always want to improve.”

Yet despite Wiegman’s insistence, there remains key places still up for grabs and the Dutchwoman looks no closer to knowing her starting XI.

Have England found their number nine yet?

One of the biggest talking points heading into the tournament is who will be England’s number nine.

During their successful Euro 2022 campaign, Ellen White – now retired – started every game, with Russo providing an impact off the bench as one of several ‘super-subs.’

Russo was the obvious successor as England’s leading centre-forward, but she has lacked consistency since last summer and finished below Golden Boot winner Daly and Tottenham striker Bethany England in the Women’s Super League scoring charts this season.

It means the door is wide open for a starting spot, with Daly given her opportunity against Portugal.

The Aston Villa striker failed to take it, squandering several chances in the first half, before Russo made an impact in the second half following her introduction.

But with both strikers failing to find the net against a Portugal side ranked 17 places lower and who have qualified for their first World Cup, is Wiegman any closer to knowing her preferred number nine?

“We haven’t made decisions yet. It’s close. There is a real competition going on and we have Rachel Daly, we have Alessia Russo and we have Beth England,” said Wiegman.

“I’m not closer [to knowing], no. I think in some positions it’s really tight. This is not the time to make final decisions as we have some weeks to go.”

Is James better suited as a number 10?

Another decision facing Wiegman is how to get the best out of James, who is widely considered one of the most talented players of her generation, albeit a little unorthodox.

There is stiff competition in wide forward positions with Manchester City duo Kelly and Lauren Hemp proving their worth on plenty of occasions previously – most notably when Kelly came off the bench to score the winning goal in the Euro 2022 final.

James was dangerous against Portugal, linking up nicely with Lucy Bronze in the first half, though failing to produce the final ball when it mattered.

However, a switch at half-time from Wiegman, dropping James into a deeper number 10 position, seemed to get the best out of her as she often combined with Russo and winger Kelly.

The best chance of the match came via James when she slid it through to Russo to round the keeper – the striker denied only by the brilliance of a goalline block by Ana Borges.

So what system will Wiegman use at the World Cup and is James’ role perhaps more effective in the middle than out wide?

“You can tell that she can play on the side, but she can also play on the centre. She’s tight on the ball, she’s very powerful, and has vision,” said Wiegman.

“I think we could see someone who actually did really good things, and I also think you could see in some moments that she could make some decisions a little quicker. So we’ll review that with the team later.”

Are England ready for the World Cup?

With several players already missing through injury – captain Leah Williamson, forward Beth Mead and midfielder Fran Kirby – the remaining question marks around key centre-back Bright’s fitness is a concern.

It only adds to Wiegman’s conundrums, which did not feel as complex heading into Euro 2022.

England’s form has also dipped slightly. Their 30-game unbeaten run ended with defeat by Australia prior to their draw with the Portuguese at Stadium MK.

There are suitable explanations for this including injury and rustiness following a month without a competitive match since the end of the WSL season.

But were England better prepared last summer than they are now?

“I don’t relate that to each other. I think the team has changed so there’s another team dynamic now because we have other people in and different qualities. It’s a new situation,” added Wiegman.

“We continue to develop our style of play, with the players we have, and that’s how we approach it. I think we’re in a very good place.

“This game was very helpful, although we are disappointed we didn’t score a goal. You can tell that we really know what we want to do and that’s really what we’re working on.”

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