I Don't Believe It
Written by Charlotte Stacey
The news of Lucy Bronze's withdrawal is a tough blow for the Lionesses SheBelieves campaign. With Beth Mead already out, Bronze's injury was a hard pill to swallow for many.
Lucy Bronze is arguably the best right back in the world; undoubtedly, an asset to the England squad. But it should be noted that Bronze is perhaps not the only player to write home about. The Lionesses have plenty of established and upcoming talent within their squad, and the SheBelieves Cup is a prime opportunity for players to showcase this.
Phil Neville has selected a rather well rounded squad. A mindful mix of old and new. Experience and youth. Putting his confidence in a number of younger players, Neville is sensibly looking forward to the future of the Lionesses, taking account of the performances displayed by these youngsters here and now.
Defensively, Neville has players in abundance. A number of formations could make up the back four and this was conceivably his thinking all along. As the Lionesses defensive performance has seemingly fallen below par as of late, this is a good time to test the waters. Concerning Bronze's absence, it will be interesting to see who the role of right back falls to. Abbie McManus could be a nice fit, and this would be a good chance to broaden her defensive repertoire. But possibly more likely, Neville may entrust the job to Rachel Daly, whom despite having a natural attacking ability, demonstrates a dependable proficiency in all positions on the field.
In the middle, a smaller selection. Neville perhaps regarding quality over quantity here. Prime playmaker Keira Walsh will no doubt find herself playing alongside vice captain Jordan Nobbs; a visionary and an innovator at the teams core. Throw in the much underestimated Lucy Staniforth and we have ourselves a serious central midfield.
Bronze's spot has been handed to training player Alessia Russo. Russo has represented England in all age categories and unquestionably shows promise. A player with the nerve to go for it, and the skill to finish it. Russo receives the call up for her first senior tournament alongside young forwards Lauren Hemp and Chloe Kelly, both of whom have been outstanding with their domestic clubs this season.
Alongside these youngsters, up front Neville has selected the more seasoned Toni Duggan and Nikita Parris, alongside Ellen White, who certainly knows how to switch it on with the three lions on her shirt. Unsurprisingly, considering her season so far, Chelsea's top goal scorer Beth England has also been called up and looks to be a real threat within the England camp.
This blend of well practiced and youthful players, should set the team in good stead. The defensive talents of Leah Williamson, and the finish of Georgia Stanway, should work well with the all important experience of Steph Houghton and Jill Scott.
It is important to remember that tournaments are not usually won with the talents of one player alone. Winning teams succeed with the gifts of many, and the Lionesses squad surely reflects that value. The SheBelieves Cup is a friendly tournament. Does it provide a chance for the Lionesses to get even with the USWNT? Definitely. But more importantly, it provides a chance for this fresh team to prepare for bigger things.
Still having no word on Grace Fisk who have suffered recent injuries, there is a chance that Neville's squad may see some changes once again. Whilst of course, this is not ideal, it is merely a bump in the road. Lionesses supporters will rally behind the squad, and surely the likes of Bronze and Mead would agree, it is the team we stand with, regardless of which players are on the pitch.
Of course, the Lionesses will approach this tournament with the intent of defending their title, and naturally it would be lovely if they could. But if they do not manage it this time, it might not be the end of the world. With the Euro's looming, perhaps this isn't the trophy to win, perhaps this is just the warm up.