Arnold Clark Cup, Continental Cup – if there’s one thing women’s football loves, it’s a good old tyre sponsored trophy.
Just as England appeared to be losing their grip on hopes of winning the first edition of the Arnold Clark Cup, Sarina Wiegman rolled the tactical dice. It paid off in spades, setting the Lionesses on the road to victory in the round robin friendly tournament.
With the clash against Germany finely poised at 1-1 and heading into the final 10 minutes, on came Ella Toone and Alessia Russo. Leah Williamson moved to centre half, paving the way for Millie Bright to go up front.
Bright – a striker during her youth but now very firmly a centre half – had already shown her goal scoring prowess this tournament, opening the scoring with a thunderous volley as England drew 1-1 with Canada at the Riverside last Thursday.
A matter of minutes after she had been thrown up front, the ball was in the back of the German net courtesy of the boot of Bright, tucking home after Lauren Hemp’s deflected shot fell at her feet.
“We wanted to get some extra energy in the game,” explained Wiegman. “We wanted to score a goal, because we want to win the tournament and then we had to win this game so we needed an extra player up front.
“We know Millie is really strong, she’s a good header, but also she’s good with her feet too – she can shoot right and left. So we put her up front to try and put even more pressure on the goal.
“I know that’s a risk but you’ve seen it went our way. And then we can put her back in defence too so that was nice too.”
Fran Kirby put the finishing touches on the victory deep into injury time, the outstanding Hemp again involved as she won possession in her own half, before Kirby charged forward from the half way line and slotted home.
Wiegman had always stressed that the Arnold Clark Cup was about experimenting, trying things out and developing England’s style of play ahead of Euro 2022. Despite the victory, the Lionesses boss maintained that managing expectations will not be an issue ahead of this summer’s European Championships on home soil.
“Not for us as a team and staff – this is a step towards the Euros,” Wiegman added. “We will stay neutral. I think there are five, six maybe more countries that can win the Euros because the game has developed so quickly. We’ve seen two at this tournament, in Spain and Germany, the games were so tight.”