by Nathan Edwards (21/2/23)
Above: Rachel Daly celebrates after scoring for England against Italy in the Arnold Clark Cup on Sunday. Photo: Suvadeep Biswas for Impetus.
Rachel Daly’s headed brace overcame Italy’s second-half scare and maintained England’s flawless record in the Arnold Clark Cup.
Daly scored either side of Sofia Cantore’s controversial finish, to keep the Lionesses on track to retain the cup.
In the run-up to this tournament, Sarina Wiegman said that this competition was the “perfect preparation” for the World Cup this summer, and after two games the England boss will leave these three games behind with some positive thoughts to dwell on.
Since the Dutchwomen has taken the reigns, she has had a massive impact on all levels of the Women’s game, with the Euros victory last summer being the pinnacle.
Throughout that historic run, Ellen White was the go-to striker. White has since retired and Manchester United’s Alessia Russo was tasked with replacing England’s record goal scorer.
Russo has done well up front, scoring 11 goals in 18 appearances, but within the starting line-up for the final against Germany, last summer was the current WSL joint-top goalscorer, Rachel Daly.
The Villa striker has only strengthened her claim to the lead striking role in this international tournament, along with giving Wiegman a selection headache.
Daly has converted her rampant WSL form, where she has netted 10 times in 13 outings, to the international stage, with two well-taken headers.
When asked about her preferred position, Daly said, “I’m not bothered, I’m really not,” she said. “I think you guys care more about where I play than I do. I’m genuinely happy to play in any role.
“Obviously playing in the [number nine role] is something I do week-in, week-out, so it’s a little bit more natural for me. But whatever role I’m given, I’ll do it to the best of my ability.”
The victory at The Coventry Building Society Arena, where it saw a record attendance for any sporting event, also showcased the depth of talent available to Wiegman.
Two of the standout players in the first half, were Katie Robinson and Jess Park, both making their full debut for the Lionesses.
To mark the momentous occasion Robinson assisted Daly’s first, with a whipped delivery that was finished by Daly. It capped off a performance that will delight the England boss.
The 20-year-old caused problems on both wings, and also looked to have a strong understanding between her and the teammates around her.
Robinson said, “We (Daly) have never played with each other before, so it is new. I needed to relax a bit on the ball, and cross the ball in earlier, and when I did that we scored”
Along with the Brighton winger, Park was given a shorter cameo only featuring in the first half but despite the limited game time, the Manchester City loanee impressed.
She was able to collect the ball in promising positions and would spearhead the charge towards Italy’s defence, and similarly to Robinson, she linked up well with those around her.
She came off with England leading, but Italy drew level before Daly glanced substitute Lauren James’ cross in.
Italy offered a tough challenge compared to South Korea, but Wiegman will be pleased with the performance her rotated team put in, with some even making a claim to push into her starting 11 when they travel to Australia this summer.