Why England manager Sarina Wiegman is facing her biggest Euro 2022 selection headache against Sweden

3 min

As England prepare for a Euro 2022 semi-final showdown against Sweden at Bramall Lane on Tuesday, manager Sarina Wiegman arguably has her biggest selection dilemma to date.

So far this tournament, Wiegman has named an unchanged starting XI for every game – even selecting the same line-up for the final Group A dead rubber against Northern Ireland.

Although this decision has not only been supported by results on the pitch as well as data off it, nevertheless it was Wiegman’s brave substitutions as the Lionesses trailed Spain in the Quarter-Finals that ultimately booked their last four berth. 

Within four minutes of going behind, tournament top scorer Beth Mead and England Women’s record goalscorer Ellen White were replaced by Chloe Kelly and Alessia Russo before Fran Kirby was substituted for Ella Toone six minutes later.

Similarly, mainstay Rachel Daly struggled against Athenea del Castillo in the second-half and was at fault for Spain’s goal before being replaced late on by Alex Greenwood who subsequently impressed during her cameo.

And while Kelly provided reinvigorated energy to England’s cause, it was Russo who combined with Toone for the Lionesses’ equaliser six minutes from time to pave the way for Georgia Stanway’s stunning 20-yard extra-time strike to seal a dramatic win.

Wiegman is generally not one to upset the rhythm of a side during the quick turnaround of tournament football – remarkably only making a total of three changes as she led the Netherlands to their Euro 2017 title-winning triumph.

In comparison to an unchanged England, out of all the teams in the last eight, Belgium have had the second most consistent starting line-up (three changes) with the Netherlands making the most (10) followed by France (nine) and then both Spain and Germany (seven).

Although France and Germany may have rung the changes after qualifying for the knock-out phase and the Netherlands and Spain had injury woes and coronavirus cases to contend with, England’s unchanged line-up at this point in the tournament is still an impressive achievement.

However, it’s something that Barry Watters, head of sport science at the FA’s data analytics partners STATSports, believes has been key to England’s success so far.

“When you come to a big tournament like this, you want to be prepared optimally to perform in all the games and then in between games, you’re using our equipment and data to help monitor the volume and intensity of training to prepare for the next game,” Barry Watters explained.

“Everyone always thinks about people doing too much but there’s also the point that they could do too little and be undercooked. There’s been some studies around that and players like playing games to get into that rhythm.”

READ MORE: Could coronavirus be the biggest threat to England’s Euro 2022 hopes?

Whatever the situation or set-up, the Lionesses undoubtedly possess one of the strongest squads in the entire tournament with the impact of Wiegman’s substitutions during games a testament to that fact.

Whether any of England’s ‘Young Guns’ of Kelly, Russo, Greenwood and Toone have done enough to warrant a place ahead of their more tried and tested team-mates remains to be seen but certainly Russo in particular could feel aggrieved should she miss out against Sweden.

The 23-year-old has impressed on her way to scoring from the bench three times with White, one goal away from equalling Wayne Rooney’s overall England record, the most obvious casualty to make way.

It certainly would be a big call to make, but as fans saw on the South Coast, these are decisions Wiegman is not afraid to make…

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