England will get a rapturous send-off from 30,000 fans in Milton Keynes as they play their final game on home soil before flying to Australia for the 2023 Women’s World Cup.
Portugal, who will soon be making their way to New Zealand for the co-hosted tournament, have been selected to provide one of the last warm-ups for Sarina Wiegman’s European champions.
Having won on penalties against Brazil to prevail in the inaugural Women’s Finalissima, the Lionesses were beaten for the first time during Wiegman’s two years in charge when they faced Australia last time out. It is therefore important for confidence to get back to winning ways before they fly.
Once in Australia – they expect to set up camp at the the east coast Sunshine Coast Resort from 7 July – England will play one last warm-up behind closed doors against Canada a week later. From there, the opening Group D game against Haiti will be played on 22 July in Brisbane.
With the squad together at St George’s Park for the past 10 days, tournament mentality has fully set in and the countdown to Australia starts with Portugal at the weekend.
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Captaining the squad in the absence of Leah Williamson, Millie Bright won’t be ready in time for this one as she continues to build her fitness following a recent knee injury.
The skipper was doing individual work during an open training session this week and stated, “I think Saturday will be a little bit too soon. I’m not back with the girls and I don’t want to rush that. I’m gutted not to make that one, but at the same time, I’m exactly where I want to be.”
Alex Greenwood suffered a worrying knock at training on Tuesday in a challenge with Georgia Stanway, but the Manchester City defender later allayed fears of any lasting damage.
Jess Park has had to withdraw from the standby list due to a shoulder injury and has been replaced by veteran midfielder Lucy Staniforth, who pulled out of a family holiday to Ibiza to report for duty.
The Portugal squad will arrive in England on Friday morning with plans to train that evening.
Ana Borges and Diana Silva are familiar names to WSL audiences, having previously turned out for Chelsea and Aston Villa respectively. Attacking star Jessica Silva is one to watch after an impressive Euro 2022. As many as seven of the experienced squad have 100 or more international caps.
England vs Portugal score prediction
Going into a World Cup for which they are among the favourite off the back of consecutive defeats would be unthinkable for the Lionesses, especially having ticked off important wins against the United States, Germany, Sweden, Japan and Spain throughout 2022.
Portugal showed at Euro 2022 that they are threat, twice coming back from 2-0 down against Switzerland and Netherlands. They will provide a decent test and have their own World Cup preparations to focus on ahead of going into Group E with the United States, Vietnam and the aforementioned Dutch. But this should still be England’s game to lose.
Portugal are ranked outside the world’s top 20 and it would be a shock to see them progress beyond the World Cup group stage. It is a test for England, but not too much of a test.
Prediction: England 3-1 Portugal
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Source : 90min.com