Soccer

The key talking points ahead of England’s Women’s Nations League double-header

Sarina Wiegman’s England must beat the Netherlands on Friday to retain a chance of securing Olympic qualification for Great Britain (Rene Nijhuis/PA)
Sarina Wiegman’s England must beat the Netherlands on Friday to retain a chance of securing Olympic qualification for Great Britain (Rene Nijhuis/PA) Sarina Wiegman’s England must beat the Netherlands on Friday to retain a chance of securing Olympic qualification for Great Britain (Rene Nijhuis/PA)

England complete their group games in the inaugural Women’s Nations League over the next few days, playing the Netherlands at Wembley on Friday and then Scotland at Hampden Park on Tuesday.

Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the talking points ahead of the double-header.

Must-win

This competition provides England with the chance to secure Paris 2024 Olympic qualification for Great Britain, should they first finish top of Group A1 – something they are in considerable danger of failing to do. Lying third with six points from four games, three points behind the Dutch and one behind Belgium, they have to win on Friday to stay in contention. They lost 2-1 in the Netherlands in September, and were also beaten in their most recent outing, 3-2 away against Belgium.

Relegation threat

If England are defeated again by Wiegman’s old side, and Belgium beat Scotland at home the same night, as well as the Olympic bid being over, the Lionesses will be confirmed as entering the Nations League relegation play-offs. After the highs of the last two years under her management, that scenario would represent some come down for the European champions and World Cup runners-up.

The Scotland situation

England’s Chloe Kelly (left) and Scotland’s Samantha Kerr battle for the ball (Owen Humphreys/PA)
England’s Chloe Kelly (left) and Scotland’s Samantha Kerr battle for the ball (Owen Humphreys/PA) England beat Scotland 2-1 at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light in September (Owen Humphreys/PA)

While it remains to be seen what the state of play is come Tuesday, a talking point from the word go as England headed into this competition as the one home nation able to claim Olympic qualification for GB has been that their group includes a Scotland outfit with players also holding Paris hopes. England midfielder Keira Walsh has described the situation as “a little bit strange”, but said of Tuesday: “If I’m putting myself in their shoes, it’s a big game against England. They’re going to want to win.” Wiegman’s team beat Scotland 2-1 in Sunderland in their group opener in September.

No Bright

England, already without Leah Williamson, also for these two games have the player who has skippered the team in her absence, fellow defender Millie Bright, out injured due to a knee issue. Wiegman has confirmed goalkeeper Mary Earps will wear the armband.

Mead’s return

England also have a big-name player back in the fold, with the fit-again Beth Mead – like Williamson, absent from the summer’s World Cup as she recovered from an ACL injury – having been recalled. Wiegman said it was as if Mead “hasn’t been away” without confirming whether the forward would start or not on Friday. Any appearance would be her first at international level in just over a year for the Euro 2022 Golden Boot winner.