England end 2022 unbeaten but Norway battle back for draw despite red card | Friendlies

The Lionesses signed off on a successful year, ending 2022 unbeaten with a 1-1 draw with Norway in Pinatar. Rachel Daly’s first-half goal was cancelled out by Frida Maanum late on as the final international break came to a close.

It had been 127 days since these two sides last met on that infamous summer’s evening in Brighton. That day, Sarina Wiegman’s side subjected Norway to an 8-0 drubbing on their way to winning the European Championship.

The differences to that night were many. A breezy Pinatar Stadium in southern Spain was the setting, and while almost at capacity, it was a stark contrast to recent crowds in England. Wiegman’s side were much changed both due to injury and her taking the opportunity to bed in new faces. Fresh off an impressive showing against Japan last week, their younger players were given their chance once again. Five changes saw Maya Le Tissier handed her senior debut and Lauren James starting in midfield, while Rachel Daly was given a rare opportunity as central striker role.

Norway had won three of their last five under new manager, Hege Riise, since the summer, most recently losing narrowly to France on Friday evening. Riise made three changes from that match with Aurora Mikalsen given a start in goal while Emilie Haavi and Lisa Naalsund provided fresh legs.

It was the Norwegians who started the brighter, finding their feet quickly and pushing forward with energy. Haavi made an impression straightaway, finding space time and again down the left side. She forced a smart save from Ellie Roebuck in the opening minutes before setting up Naalsund who fired over in space.

England, on the other hand, were dominating possession but struggling to make an impact in the final third. A combination of the wet surface and new faces were the cause with the Lionesses needing to find their feet. They truly settled after one of James’ trademark runs saw their first shot on target. The Chelsea midfielder makes football look easy and she glided past her marker with effortless skill before firing a shot into the gloves of Mikalsen.

England looked in control from this point and opened the scoring through the in-form Rachel Daly with half an hour on the clock. She rose high to send home another pinpoint Kelly delivery, her ninth goal of an extraordinary season for club and country. She could have had two more just before the break but the back of the net just eluded her in the latter stages of the first half.

Wiegman is not known for making early substitutions but three came at the break, perhaps with a nod to the busy domestic schedule in the weeks ahead. Georgia Stanway took the captain’s armband as she entered the fray alongside Katie Zelem and Esme Morgan.

Changes can cause disruption and Norway saw it as an opportunity to put a new-look Lionesses defensive line under pressure. Amalie Eikeland had Roebuck stretching to tip over a curling effort before the England keeper was alert to the run of Sophie Haug as she broke through.

This England side, however, just love to play football and can turn on the flair in an instant. Kelly’s deliveries from the left have been a stand-out this international break and she produced two more that were just crying out for a crimson shirt to get on the end of it. They were helped also by the departure of Anja Sønstevold in the 73rd minute, given her marching orders by Zuzana Valentova for two yellow-card challenges on Nikita Parris.

Despite their shortage in numbers, however, Norway were in no mood to throw in the towel and provided a shock late on. Frida Maanum, the impressive Arsenal midfielder, fired into an empty net within minutes of coming on to the field after Roebuck miscued her attempted clearance.

England turned on the pressure once more with Katie Robinson providing fresh legs in attack as she became another to earn her first senior cap. Despite their dominance on the ball, however, they could not fashion a clear-cut opportunity and had to settle for a draw to round out their year.

Jess Park scores on England debut to cap impressive friendly win over Japan | Friendlies

England extended their unbeaten run to 25 games under Sarina Wiegman with an emphatic defeat of the 2011 World Cup winners Japan in Murcia.

If there was any fear that the momentum of Wiegman’s side was slowing after a 0-0 draw with the Czech Republic last month followed the 2-1 defeat of USA at Wembley, then that was put to bed comfortably against a historically tricky team as they continue to march towards the World Cup with expectations rising with each game.

The Lionesses have now scored 123 goals and conceded just six times since Wiegman took charge in September 2021 and have won all seven games played outside of the UK, scoring 44 and conceding none.

“We played a very good game,” said Wiegman. “It was a very attractive game with lots of football. They played in a shape we haven’t had a lot against us so that was good to practice that, they changed a bit in the second half then they changed back so we had to adapt all the time. It’s really good to see the players do so well and to see different players and to see substitutes come on and do a good job.”

There were several changes to the team that took to the field for the draw with the Czech Republic last month that ended a run of 15 wins. However, many were enforced changes rather than being of the manager’s choosing. Only Millie Bright, who was handed the armband with Leah Williamson out injured, remained in the back line, with Esme Morgan making her senior debut alongside the Chelsea centre-back and Niamh Charles and Rachel Daly at full-back.

Beth Mead, making her 50th England appearance, two days after being named BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year, and the Manchester United forward Alessia Russo returned up front and Georgia Stanway was on in place of Fran Kirby.

Also ruled out of this camp was Lauren Hemp and Jordan Nobbs, while a minor injury to the included Alex Greenwood and positive Covid tests from Lucy Bronze alongside a minor injury, saw them omitted from the matchday squad (albeit with Bronze having returned a negative test prior to kick-off) with Wiegman saying that “now isn’t the time to take risks”.

Wiegman had praised the challenge that would be posed by a technical Japan side but said she hoped England could dominate.

The Japanese were unbeaten in 13 games in all competitions prior to the trip to Spain – nine wins and four draws – with the team’s last defeat coming to Iceland a year ago.

As the wind whipped almost violently through the Pinatar Arena, England did just that despite the potential disruption of numerous changes.

Ella Toone scores England’s third goal during the victory
Ella Toone scores England’s third goal during the victory. Photograph: Naomi Baker/The FA/Getty Images

It took the Manchester United duo Russo and Ella Toone two minutes to combine and for the latter to force a save from Ayaka Yamashita. Toone, who has signed a new contract with United, would go close again, but she scuffed her shot as she swung at Chloe Kelly’s cross.

There was danger minutes later as Jun Endo floated the ball towards Arsenal’s Mana Iwabuchi but those moments from Japan were fleeting. Far less fleeting were the pinpoint crosses flying in from Kelly on the left as England sought the opener.

The hero of the final of the Euros, just four months ago, was rampant and could perhaps feel frustrated at the profligacy of her teammates. In quick succession she twice delivered for Russo but the first was just ahead of the forward and the second was headed on to the post from six yards out. Russo could be forgiven, given that the forward has only recently returned from injury.

In the 38th minute the story was the same, with Kelly’s cross missed by Russo but this time Daly arrived to power in at the far post.

The full-back, who plays up front at club level, is constantly being considered for a role further forward said Wiegman. “She’s so versatile, she played a really good game from full-back too and she scored from that position,” she said. “She’s an option to try out up front too but we also have to look at which players we have available and what’s best for the team.”

In the second half the Lionesses doubled their lead in style, Mead, released on the right, sent a cross in from the right, Russo could not reach it but Kelly was on hand to fire past Yamashita.

The introduction of Ebony Salmon and Lauren James in the 64th minute for Russo and Kelly upped the ante and 12 minutes later they were both involved as Toone collected Salmon’s reverse pass and sent in England’s third with her left foot.

The fourth spoke to the depth and potency of the European champions’ squad, with Salmon, delivering from the right and the substitute Jess Park firing in from close range shortly after coming off the bench to make her debut.

The Lionesses play Norway on Tuesday in their final game of 2022.

England’s winning run ends as Czech Republic frustrate in stalemate | Friendlies

England endured a frustrating night in Brighton as they were held to a goalless draw by the Czech Republic. The Lionesses struggled to find their rhythm as a strong defensive performance from the visitors kept their customary prolific attack at bay.

Sarina Wiegman, the England manager, saw the occasion as a “good learning moment” for her team. “We are absolutely disappointed because we think we could have won,” she said. “We knew the Czech Republic was a very tough opponent; they are very physical and direct. We just had to do a little better.”

It was a celebration of the old and the new as Wiegman’s side returned to Brighton for the first time since the summer. As one of England’s legends Anita Asante was celebrated on the touchline, having recently ended her glittering playing career, a full debut was handed to their impressive youngster Lauren James.

There is much anticipation around the 21-year-old Chelsea star who was one of three changes Wiegman made to her starting eleven. In addition, the inclusion of Ella Toone alongside Fran Kirby spoke to the different challenge the Czechs would present. Karel Rada’s team are ranked 28th in the world, an up-and-coming side who tend to sit deeper and hit the opposition on the counterattack.

Despite the gap, the visitors made life difficult for a disjointed looking England. Whether it was complacency or just a lack of focus, the hosts struggled to reach the high levels that have seen them dominate recently.

James came close early on, stinging the gloves of Olivie Lukasova with a close-range effort. But England’s chances were minimal with the Czech midfield disrupting their attempts to break at speed. Kirby was the brightest on the field, occasionally finding those pockets of space that she operates so well in, but England failed to create anything of note in front of goal.

The Czech Republic, however, picked their moments and looked threatening on the break. On one such occasion their tall No 9, Andrea Staskova, found a gap through England’s back-line but lost momentum as she found herself stranded.

England’s Lucy Bronze is challenged by Michaela Khyrova of Czech Republic during the international friendly match.
Lucy Bronze reached a milestone of 100 caps in the friendly with the Czech Republic. Photograph: Harriet Lander/The FA/Getty Images

As the break loomed, England upped the pressure. Their best passage of play saw their new centurion, Lucy Bronze, set up Chloe Kelly but she could only head wide of the far post. England returned to the dressing room with work to be done.

Wiegman had clearly seen enough with Beth Mead, the Lionesses’ player of the moment, entering the pitch at half-time. She immediately injected pace and stability into England’s play, with her dangerous deliveries crying out for a head to convert.

Finding more fluidity in possession, England were starting to utilise the speed of their attack to cause problems. Hemp came agonisingly close, hitting the post from a tight angle with Kirby somehow unable to bundle the rebound over the line. Their forward pressure, however, did leave them susceptible on the counter with Tereza Krejcirikova breaking the length of the field to fire wide.

From start to finish, it had been a match that had the air of an encounter on which not a lot was riding.

England’s momentum was disrupted once more with a series of changes for both sides. Gabriela Slajsova was stretchered off with a nasty looking injury while Wiegman handed a debut to Esme Morgan in a flurry of activity on the touchline. The Manchester City defender slotted in for Millie Bright as England moved to three at the back in search of a breakthrough.

The crowd grew frustrated, and on the pitch, England fared little better, coming up against the Czech Republic’s low defensive block. As Wiegman explained post-match, her side needed to experience this type of test. “I think it was all about us and doing better and being tighter on the ball. It’s not very complex,” she said.

“You want to have opponents that are hard to beat. Last Friday [against the USA] was different; it was equal. We knew we would be in possession a lot more.”

There was one moment of magic right at the end when Kirby turned her defender only to see her sweetly-struck effort tipped over the bar. There was no breakthrough, however, as England suffered a rare glitch under Wiegman’s tenure. A learning experience with plenty to build on ten months away from a World Cup.

Punchless USA silenced by Japan in penultimate World Cup tune-up | Friendlies

Daichi Kamada scored following Weston McKennie’s giveaway in the 24th minute, Kaoru Mitoma added a goal in the 88th, and Japan beat a lackluster and injury-depleted United States 2-0 on Friday in Düsseldorf, Germany, in the Americans’ next-to-last World Cup warmup.

The Americans failed to get a single shot on goal, playing a dismal first half and showing only slightly more initiative after four changes at halftime. They have one win, five losses and four draws in 10 road games since a victory at Northern Ireland in March 2021, and just one goal in their last five away games.

US star Christian Pulisic did not dress because of an unspecified injury. The 14th-ranked Americans already were without Tim Weah, Yunus Musah, Chris Richards, Antonee Robinson and Zack Steffen, and Miles Robinson will miss the World Cup because of a torn achilles.

A series of defensive breakdowns plagued the US in the first half and put pressure on goalkeeper Matt Turner, who has played just one match this season for Arsenal. Turner made a pair of diving saves in the second half, on Junya Ito in the 55th and Kamada in the 65th.

Kamada scored after McKennie received a pass from Tyler Adams and underhit a backpass. Hiroki Sakai ran onto the ball and passed to Ito. He played the ball to an open Kamada, who beat Turner to the far post from about 12 yards for his sixth international goal.

No 24 Japan initially were called for offside, but the goal was awarded after a video review determined Kamada was played onside by Walker Zimmerman.

Mitoma scored his fifth international goal, turning around second-half sub Reggie Cannon and bending the ball around Zimmerman to beat Turner to the far post with a right-foot shot from just inside the penalty area.

Jesús Ferreira had the best US chance in the seventh minute, putting an short-range open header over the crossbar from a Sergiño Dest cross.

The US have one last exhibition ahead of the World Cup, against 53rd-ranked Saudi Arabia on Tuesday at Murcia, Spain. The USSF said it was too soon to determine whether Pulisic will be available.

Back in the World Cup after missing the 2018 tournament, the Americans open in Qatar against No 19 Wales on 21 November, play fifth-ranked England four days later and close the first round against No 22 Iran on 29 November.

Japan, preparing for their seventh straight World Cup, open against No 11 Germany on 23 November, meet 34th-ranked Costa Rica four days later and close group play against No 6 Spain on 1 December.

Players’ shouts to each other were audible during a match played before a crowd of under 10,000 in 54,600-capacity Merkur Spiel-Arena.

Gio Reyna and Dest started despite having not played 90-minute matches for their clubs this season. Reyna, fit following a leg injury that wrecked his 2021-22 season, had not started for the US in a year. He wore the No 21 shirt of his father, former US captain Claudio Reyna.

Japan won possession in the US defensive third eight times in the first half, matching the most in a half against the Americans since 2010, according to Opta Sports.

Josh Sargent, Jordan Morris, Cannon and Mark McKenzie entered to start the second half in place of Ferreira, Reyna, Dest and Aaron Long.

Japan play No 44 Ecuador on Tuesday in Düsseldorf and 43rd-ranked Canada on 17 November in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Garang Kuol and Jason Cummings shine on debut as Socceroos beat New Zealand | Friendlies

The Socceroos have wrapped up preparations for November’s World Cup with a 2-0 win over New Zealand which showcased the team’s best and worst form.

In Australia’s final match before taking on France at the Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah on 22 November, second-half goals from Mitch Duke and Jason Cummings – the latter from the penalty spot – ensured Australia completed their Qatar 2022 preparations with a pair of wins against the All Whites, having defeated the same opponent in Brisbane last Thursday.

But it was the introduction of 18-year-old Garang Kuol with 20 minutes remaining that excited most, and the exciting attacker wasted no time showing why he has garnered international attention. His individual brilliance along the touchline created the chance preceding the penalty converted by his Central Coast teammate Cummings, who, like Kuol, was making his international debut.

Kuol’s 20-minute cameo, during which he never once looked overawed by the occasion of senior international football, has surely stamped his ticket to Qatar as Australia’s bolter.

Whether any of his teammates today did enough to force their way into calculations remains to be seen given the inconsistent nature of the Socceroos’ most recent two outings.

True to his word before the game, Socceroos coach Graham Arnold used the match as an opportunity to experiment, making wholesale changes to the team that edged New Zealand 1-0 on Thursday night in Brisbane.

Ten players who featured in the centenary celebration at Suncorp Stadium were released from camp, free to return to their club sides, before Australia had even traveled to Auckland.

Garang Kuol on international debut.
Garang Kuol on international debut. Photograph: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

It meant Arnold made 11 changes to his starting line-up, with only Mat Leckie and Mitch Duke considered regulars, while the likes of Connor Metcalfe, Denis Genreau and Marco Tilio were offered a rare starting berth to press their case for selection in Australia’s 26-man squad for Qatar.

The group offered a glimpse into the future with many of those selected expected to form the nucleus of the Socceroos squad over the next World Cup cycle.

In the first five minutes, at least, the future looked bright as Australia started on the front foot. Riley McGree had the first genuine effort on goal inside the first quarter-hour with a long-range effort that packed power but not the required placement, shooting directly at All Whites custodian Ollie Sail.

But as the half wore on it was the home side who took control, dictating the game’s flow and tempo and rendering their visitors second best as Australia’s struggled for any meaningful possession inside their forward third.

And yet for all of New Zealand’s first-half dominance, the Socceroos finished the half with the best opportunity and should have taken a lead into the break.

Melbourne City midfielder Marco Tilio had the ball laid on a platter by Mitch Duke, who could have taken the shot himself but opted to slide the ball across for Tilio, waiting in front of an open net but inexplicably skewing his shot wide.

Whatever Arnold said at half-time worked as Australia came out in the second half with far greater intent, pushing high and pressing the Kiwis at every opportunity. Eight minutes into the half they struck gold when Duke powerfully headed home an inch-perfect cross from Metcalfe to give the Socceroos the lead.

Alex Grieve and Matthew Garbett both enjoyed half-chances for New Zealand but Andrew Redmayne, playing in green and gold for the first time since his penalty shootout heroics against Peru, could not be breached.

The introduction of Kuol reinjected the spark into the Socceroos side, and were it not for a last-ditch block he too might have had a goal on debut, 56 days out of the World Cup.