World Cup 2023: Which England full-backs will Sarina Wiegman choose?

BRIGHTON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 11: Lucy Bronze of England in action during an International Friendly between England Women and Czech Republic Women at American Express Community Stadium on October 11, 2022 in Brighton, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

One of Sarina Wiegman’s trickiest decisions ahead of the 2023 World Cup will be deciding which England full-backs will make the trip.

Lucy Bronze and Rachel Daly were the full-back mainstays of the infamous unchanged lineup of the Euro 2022 tournament for the Lionesses. However, with the FIFA World Cup still eight months away, changes are inevitable.

Any tournament squad is likely to contain at least four full-backs, perhaps even more with versatility being a key asset for any player. Her Football Hub assesses the potential full-backs available to Wiegman.

Current England full-backs

Lucy Bronze has arguably been one of England’s greatest ever full-backs. She’s made more than 100 appearances for the Lionesses and has won multiple awards including UEFA Women’s Player of the Year. The Barcelona right-back has just turned 31 years old but she will strongly believe she’ll still be competitive enough to retain her starting place next year in Australia.

Bronze has been one of the most consistent all-around performers for the Lionesses. Her defensive displays against some of the top teams in the world have ensured England haven’t conceded many goals. Going forwards she has the confidence to run at opponents, provide accurate crosses and score the odd goal or two.

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There is a popular saying amongst fans — Rachel Daly is not a defender. You can understand why when you look at Daly’s impressive goalscoring record in the United States. Daly was scoring goals for fun for Houston Dash and even won the NWSL Challenge Cup Golden Boot in 2020.

However, Wiegman has always deployed Daly as a left-back for the Lionesses. Considering England won the Euro 2022 championship there is an argument to say Wiegman knows what she’s doing, so who are we to challenge this?

Then again, since returning to England and playing for Aston Villa, Daly has reverted to the centre-forward position. Villa’s manager Carla Ward believes Daly should be knocking on the door as England’s main striker, and she has bagged herself five goals in six appearances in the Women’s Super League this season.

However, Daly has also proven she’s equally impressive in defence but a lot can change between now and next July.

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Demi Stokes has had an impressive career with Manchester City as their main left-back over the past eight years. Stokes has racked up more than 60 caps for England but recently she’s lost her starting place in Wiegman’s team.

Stokes is focused, hard-working, dependable, and a great role model. Her attributes include her ability to get up and down the wing continuously for 90 minutes. However, it remains to be seen whether Wiegman will stick with the 30-year-old leading up to next year’s tournament or look to youth.

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Alex Greenwood is a left-footed defender who can equally play as a centre-back as well as a full-back. She is very experienced having played for both Merseyside clubs in addition to playing on both sides of Manchester.

Wiegman appears to favour Greenwood as a centre-back having played for the Lionesses over 60 times. Equally, when she’s come on as a substitute it’s often been to replace Rachel Daly at left-back.

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England squad full-backs

Jess Carter has only made 12 appearances for England since her debut in 2017. However, with playing at left-back more regularly for Chelsea. she’s got to be in the running for further Lionesses appearances.

Carter started her career with Birmingham City winning the PFA Young Player of the Year award in 2017. However, after her big move signing to Chelsea in 2018, Carter struggled with health issues which limited her game time. The 25-year-old has now fully recovered and is sure to be in contention.

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Carter’s Chelsea teammate Niamh Charles is a more recent addition to the Lionesses squad. Since signing from Liverpool in 2020, Charles has played on the right wing as well as at full-back.

One of Charles’ strongest attributes is her pressing. She is good at applying pressure on opposition defenders, forcing them back or dispossessing them. Charles is also comfortable playing on both sides giving Wiegman more options on the flanks.

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Uncapped England full-backs

At the age of 29, Ashleigh Neville is relatively new to the WSL, having only reached the top tier with Tottenham Hotspur in 2019.

Prior to Spurs, Neville was at West Bromwich Albion and Coventry United, which meant she went under the radar. As such has never played at England youth level.

Last season and this, Neville has been sensational for Spurs. In just five WSL matches, Neville has scored three goals and provided two assists. It’s been very surprising to not see her called up to the Lionesses yet but surely if she continues this scintillating form a call-up can’t be far away.

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Sarah Mayling has made 24 appearances for various England youth teams, scoring four goals in the process. However, at senior level she has gone under the radar despite having a very impressive first season back with Aston Villa.

Looking at her team stats for 2021/22, Mayling came first place in four key categories. She had the highest number of crosses into the penalty box, the highest number of progressive passes, the highest number of tackles and the highest number of blocks.

In the last three seasons, despite being capable of playing in multiple positions, Mayling has made the right-back position her own. She can close down opposing defenders, win duels and apply pressure further up the pitch. Her speed, energy and intelligence are key reasons for her success, especially with so much creativity with her passes into the final third.

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Maz Pacheco is a highly talented left-back at Aston Villa most recently playing for England U23s. She is highly experienced at England youth level, ranking up 35 appearances from U17s to U23s scoring two goals. Pacheco has the ability to go past opponents with ease often nutmegging them on the way.

As with any team, left-sided players are always at a premium so Wiegman will certainly have Pacheco on her radar.

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Versatile full-backs

Hannah Blundell is a versatile full-back who can equally play on either flank as well as a centre-back. While playing for Chelsea, Blundell got called up to the England squad in 2018 but has only made three appearances. Since moving to Manchester United in 2021 she has yet to feature again.

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Esme Morgan is another versatile defender who can equally play full-back or centre-back. The 5’10” Yorkshire-born player is a product of the Manchester City academy. Having made 27 appearances for the various Lionesses youth teams Morgan finally got her first senior cap against the Czech Republic in October 2022. Wiegman seems to favour versatile players so it’s likely Morgan will feature again.

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Maya Le Tissier predominately played as a right-back when she was at Brighton and Hove Albion. Since her move to Manchester United in 2022, the talented defender has switched to playing at centre-back. Le Tissier is receiving many plaudits for her performances and will surely be in Wiegman’s plans but it remains to be seen where Wiegman will play the yet uncapped 20-year-old.

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England full-backs on the plane to Australia

In summary, this article considered 12 English players who could all warrant a place in the Lionesses squad for a variety of reasons. Wiegman has between now and May 2023 to consider her options before deciding on her final squad for the Women’s World Cup down under.

It is likely she will take at least four full-backs with her, but with so many versatile players able to operate in multiple positions, it could mean as many as six or seven make the journey.

With two-thirds of the WSL season still ahead of us, it wouldn’t be that surprising to see some new additions to the squad.

Her Football Hub predictions

In contention: Lucy Bronze, Rachel Daly, Alex Greenwood, Maya Le Tissier, Jess Carter, Niamh Charles, Ashleigh Neville

Wildcard: Sarah Mayling

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