England legend Ellen White tells 90min ahead of the Lionesses’ opening Women’s World Cup game against Haiti: “I wouldn’t really like to be Sarina, she’s got a right headache at the moment.”
White, who was England’s starting striker at Euro 2022 last summer before announcing her retirement, is speaking about the decision that lies ahead of manager Sarina Wiegman regarding which striker she will pick to lead the line in Saturday’s game.
Although Alessia Russo replaced White off the bench in every game at the Euros, there has been no obvious successor given Rachel Daly’s incredible goalscoring form at Aston Villa and the resurgence of Bethany England following a January transfer from Chelsea to Tottenham.
“We’re very lucky to have very good number nines, who are so talented and bang on form,” White, an ambassador for Pixel FC, says on the subject.
“Beth hasn’t had as many international minutes recently as Alessia or Rachel, so I’m assuming it will be a battle between those two. It’s pretty hard to pick between them.
“Alessia has obviously started quite a lot of England games as number nine and Rach was a left-back for the Euros, but has had a phenomenal season [as a striker].”
Russo and Daly are each very different kinds of players, which at the very least give will give Wiegman varying options depending on the opponent they are facing in a given game.
“Alessia is really good at coming deep, her technical ability, spinning and moving with the ball. She’s got an unbelievable strike with very little back lift – she can move the ball and just strike it so cleanly. She’s very dominant in the air as well,” White explains.
“Rach is super fit and athletic, and can get around the pitch. She’s a nuisance in the box with her movements. She’s good in the air and with both feet. She’s technically gifted as well but is more about those little movements and running in behind.”
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One of things fellow former Lioness Fara Williams alluded to in an interview in 90min was the possibility that Wiegman, having had such a settled side at Euro 2022, doesn’t yet know her best team going into this tournament. White agrees that is a possibility but expects to see eight of the players on the pitch to remain pretty regular throughout the tournament.
“If anything, it will be the front-line and maybe the number 10 role that is interchangeable. I think the goalkeeper, back-line and two midfielders – who I think will be Georgia [Stanway] and Keira [Walsh] – will pretty much stay the same,” she says.
“There are different combinations in the front-line and Sarina can change it up,” she adds, referring to the likes of Lauren James, Lauren Hemp, Chloe Kelly and Katie Robinson being the various options to flank a main central striker.
When it comes to Wiegman relaying her team selection to the squad, White recalls from last summer it would typically happen in a team meeting, even if the training routines in the build-up would give the players a good idea of the XI beforehand.
“You’d train going through the XI and tactics, although she wouldn’t officially name it until the night before the game on a presentation,” White explains.
“She’s very good at communication and would take individuals to the side to speak about different responsibilities as well, so everyone is well aware of what their role is.”
Ellen White was speaking at the launch of Pixel FC, a collective of dedicated women’s football content creators working with Google Pixel to help close the visibility gap in women’s football.
The campaign follows research commissioned by Pixel, in collaboration with the Women’s Sport Trust, showing that while media coverage of women’s football has increased substantially compared to most male sports, it accounts for 2% of print and 6% of television football news mentions in the UK dedicated to the women’s game compared to 98% and 94% achieved by the men’s respectively.
Through the programme, Pixel will provide creators and presenters at the heart of the sport with the tools, platform and investment they need to deliver the coverage the game deserves. Pixel is committed to achieving fair and equal pay for creators and presenters across men’s and women’s football, as well as providing Pixel FC members with unrivalled access to the game’s best players.
Each of the inaugural Pixel FC members – Alex Bailess, Mollie and Rosie Kmita, Samantha Miller and Abbi Summers – will travel to Australia and New Zealand, funded and supported by Pixel.
“I was really excited to head down to Wembley for the launch of Pixel FC and their partnership with the FA, especially with what they want to do to grow the women’s game,” White says.
“They’ve picked social content creators and are helping them by giving them some funding and a really great platform to showcase women’s football in a completely different and fresh way.
“The five of them are going out to Australia and New Zealand, which they would never have had the opportunity, and they’ve got real insight and access to the games, so content they can put out will be incredible for the growth. I’m really excited to see what they do and how women’s football can be projected even more into the spotlight.”