Hege Riise calls for Lionesses to sharpen up in front of goal against Canada

·4 min read

England head coach Hege Riise is looking for a reaction from her side to Friday’s 3-1 defeat away to France when they host Canada tomorrow, writes Adam Millington.

The Lionesses were left to rue their missed chances in Caen with their consolation goal coming from the penalty spot against high-class opposition.

It was the first time since March 2020 that England faced a team in the top ten of the FIFA world rankings, and this was a France side weakened by missing a number of key players who had been caught up in a Covid-19 outbreak at Lyon.

Defensive shortcomings were obvious but the interim boss chose to highlight her team’s inconsistency in front of goal.

“Having these two games is, for us a team, important," said Riise.

"Now we get to see players in the best way we can to see where we as a team need to improve and what we are good at.

“You take parts of the France game that were excellent, but we didn't finish our chances. That's the detail. It's not easy but that's the detail we are looking for going forwards.

“We will now review the France game and see, leading into Canada, how we can improve in the areas that we lacked in the last game.”

It did not help England that both Demi Stokes and Lucy Bronze had been sidelined through injury, while captain Steph Houghton was unable to even join the camp due to an ankle issue.

Riise confirmed that both defenders are coming back into the fold, having recently taken part in training sessions, and may make cameos on Tuesday evening.

One recent plus, however, has been the addition of Nikita Parris who had previously been ruled out with Covid-19 restrictions preventing her from joining up with her teammates as she plys her trade domestically with Lyon in France.

In a short video released on the Lionesses Twitter account, Parris was shown in a leadership role in the dressing room and at 27, with a number of years of international experience under her belt, it is a role that she seemed to be a natural in.

“It's good to have her,” said Riise. “She's been in the squad for a long time and for us to get to know her, her passion for the game will always be a lot of emotions. She is a leader.

“It will be good for us going forward to see the next game and to get to know her.

With Houghton unavailable, Leah Williamson stepped up to partner with Millie Bright in the centre of defence against France, before being replaced by Arsenal teammate Lotte Wubben-Moy in the second half.

Despite only being 24, she has become a mainstay in the national team in recent years, picking up 19 caps to date, and is aiming to use April’s games as an opportunity to isolate her weaknesses and learn from them.

“Everybody's got a fairytale dream of walking into the England setup, being given your shirt and then winning the World Cup,” Williamson said when asked if she was disappointed by recent performances.

“I think the fact that we're on this learning process is very beneficial to me to be on the pitch at those teams in terms of learning where we're weak, where I'm weak and where I can contribute to the team.

“I'd much rather be learning processes now so that I know what it means, I know what matters and I know how to win the big games.”

There has been an overarching theme of this camp as an audition for this summer’s Olympics, with it being the last time England will get together ahead of the tournament.

Hege Riise will take charge of Team GB and assemble a squad of eighteen players comprising of a mix of those from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and with that in mind, Williamson confirmed that there is currently an added competitive element within the squad.

She said: “This is probably one of the most competitive camps. There's been a lot of match play within the training sessions which has allowed for things to get competitive because you're literally going 11v11 and battling it out.

“Everybody knows that they're almost auditioning for their spot, that's no secret. But also, between me and Lotte [Wubben Moy], for example, there couldn't be more support between us in terms of whatever she needs, I'm there to help make her better.

“We all had this conversation that you don't want to be on the plane because somebody was bad, you want to be on the plane because somebody was good but you were better, that's the mentality that's helping us chase our spots.”