Hopes high for homegrown hero Hemp as Lionesses head to Carrow Road.
- Credit: PA
England’s women will be hoping Norfolk superstar Lauren Hemp will be their lucky talisman when they head to Carrow Road on Sunday looking for their first win at the inaugural Arnold Clark Cup.
The Lionesses will be taking on a highly-rated Spanish team in the second of three games in the tournament, which also includes women’s football titans Germany and Olympic gold medallists Canada.
The teams met for the first time in the competition on Thursday when England took on Canada in Middlesborough. The match was a tightly-fought affair with a goal from Chelsea’s Millie Bright the highlight of a technically impressive and dominant first half from the Lionesses. Canada came back strongly in the second half as England struggled to keep up their initial pressure and Janine Beckie managed to put a goal past Manchester United keeper Mary Earps to ensure the honours were shared at the Riverside, despite calls for a last-minute penalty for a foul on Arsenal’s Nikita Parris.
Speaking to ITV 4, England manager Sarina Wiegman said the match had been a good challenge for her side, but showed there were still improvements to be made.
“This is the competitive match we needed, she said.
“I think we played a really good first half although we were sometimes a little sloppy, but we created chances.
“We have to be more ruthless and score out of the chances we create. We need a little more tightness on the ball. Our shape in the first half was really good, in the second half it dropped a little bit.”
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Among those impressing for England was Hemp, who ran riot down the left-hand side during the first half and set up a number of chances for the Lionesses.
Wiegman said the North Walsham youngster, who plays for Manchester City, was continuing to impress on the international stage.
“Lauren is just growing and growing and getting better and better every day,” she said.
England’s opponents in Norwich, Spain, had produced an identical result earlier that afternoon against Germany. After two games, all four teams are equally matched with all eyes on picking up three points in Norfolk.
It will be a tough game for Wiegman’s England side; the two teams sit next to each other in the world rankings, with England eighth and Spain ninth. The Lionesses have had relatively simple fixtures before this tournament as they look to qualify for next year’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. So far they have yet to concede a single goal in qualification and have won three games with goal counts higher than 10 against much lower-ranked sides.
The challenge offered by this invitational cup will help the Lionesses with their Euro 2022 preparations ahead of the tournament this summer, which is taking place at stadiums across England.
England will be heading to Norwich, however, without Hemp’s club team-mate, captain Steph Houghton and Arsenal’s rising star Lotte Wubben-Moy, who both miss out through injury.
Spain are still a relatively new force in women’s football, having been bolstered greatly by the strengthening of domestic sides like Barcelona and Real Madrid in recent years. Despite this, many are already tipping them as potential European champions.
Among the tournament squad is the country’s top scorer, Jennifer Hermoso, and their most-capped player Alexia Putellas, who scored Spain’s only goal in their tie with Germany earlier this week. The midfielder’s name has been against almost every footballing award possible in recent months, including Uefa Women’s Player of the Year and the Ballon d'Or. With top-quality talent on their rosters England are set for a tough game against la Roja.
Over 11,000 England fans are expected at Carrow Road with tickets also available to watch Canada take on Germany later on in the evening.