England returns to action this evening, taking on Spain in their final game of the SheBelieves Cup.
With a win last time out against Japan, they have the chance to finish a likely second-place – likewise should Spain come out on top; providing Japan doesn’t give the U.S. a thumping.
And of course, another game means another combined XI. You probably know my England picks off by heart at this point, but shall we?
In a 4-3-3 formation, unsurprisingly…
Goalkeeper: Ellie Roebuck
I literally told you for the last two not to expect anyone different here and I absolutely meant it. I will say, though, this one was arguably the toughest of the lot because you could make a good case for Panōs to be in goal, and rightly so, but I am just such a huge fan of Roebuck and the way she’s been performing this season. She stays!
Right-back: Ona Batlle
Batlle is only 20 years old with four senior international caps to her name. Club level, however, tells a different story with Levante, appearing for the Spanish club 32 times in the last two years. Despite being, she shows great composure at the back, both on and off the ball, and isn’t afraid to emerge from the back to push her side forward. She showed plenty of promise against the World Champions last time out and is sure to flourish under the guidance of the likes of Mapi at the back.
Centre-back: Leah Williamson
Oh, what’s that? Sorry, I can’t hear you over the sound of Houghton and Bright almost definitely starting the final game together at the back. Once again, will that stop me? Not in the slightest. Leah yet again makes my centre-back pair for the third combined XI in a row despite playing both right-back and centre-midfield so far in the tournament.
Centre-back: Mapi León
Aged 24, Mapi appears to be coming into her own and comfortably demanding her role as a centre-back. She does it consistently for club and has shown of late she is able to do it for country, too. Last time out against the U.S. she had a remarkable game – albeit she gave away the freekick that resulted in Ertz’s winner, but aside from that she was arguably faultless. There are very few centre-backs in the game who can not only read the game as well as Mapi does, but her agility and speed to act on what she sees are what is beginning to make her stand out among others.
Left-back: Leila Ouahabi
I’m quietly confident in the defence I’ve selected, enough so that I’m going to go for a more attacking option at fullback. And when it comes to an attacking fullback, Ouahabi is arguably up there with some of the best. She’s a relentless defender who is constantly up and down the wing during a game, but who is able to read it well enough to know when to stay back.
Right centre-midfield: Aitana Bonmatí
There were a few options that could have occupied this role, but with midfield already full and still wanting to include her, right-wing is occupied by Bonmatí. At just 22, Aitana has already shown natural leadership, looking primed to captain the side someday. While dictating play centrally she also has a quick change of pace that allows her to get forward and assist in attack.
Centre-midfield: Jordan Nobbs
The difference-maker v USA, Player of the Match v Japan – it would be stupid to not include Nobbs, wouldn’t it? Anything that comes to and from her is almost certainly going to be a threat for England going forward. Intricate and silky play on display last time out, she’d be completely wasted on the bench.
Left centre-midfield: Alexia Putellas
It goes without saying that on many occasions the Alexia we see for Spain is a far cry from the Alexia we see at Barça, but this tournament we’ve seen glimpses of that. At club level, Alexia is the heart of the side and very much pulls the strings in the middle of the park with her unbelievable vision and reading of the game.
Right-wing: Lucía García
It’s easy to forget that García is still just 21 years old, yet really holds her own in attack for both club and country. With 21 senior appearances for Spain in the last two years, she’s grown a vital part of the squad more often making an impact off the pitch. Something which she did against Japan in their SBC opener, bagging two goals to secure the three points. While her game still has plenty of room to grow, she’s a certain threat from anywhere along the front three and can link midfield and attack well.
Forward: Jenni Hermoso
Is it too much to say that Hermoso is probably one of the most underrated forwards in the game? Because it feels as though she’s never in the conversation for being among the best despite her unbelievable form. Re-joining Barça in the summer, she’s gone on to score 23 goals in just 19 appearances. An instinctive and clinical finisher, she can also drop back and pick up the ball to drive her team forward.
Left-wing: Lauren Hemp
I don’t think any individual performance will ever bring me greater joy than Hemp v O’Hara in the USA game last week. My absolute refusal to shut up about it speaks for itself. Though not quite the same impact last time out against Japan, Hemp still created great opportunities and combined well with England and Kelly across that front three. She’s a complete hassle for defenders.
And that concludes the final combined XI for the SheBelieves Cup this time around.
Admittedly, this side is as dominated by the Spanish as the U.S. were over the weekend, but they’re a side who show a great amount of promise and have improved tremendously over the last few years – the jury is still out on England, apparently.
You can watch England take on Spain on BBC Four, 9:15 pm KO.