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Can Football Come Home Again?

Euro 2022 was perhaps the best moment in English football in the 21st century. Chloe Kelly's iconic celebration will forever be associated with England, Wembley and international football.

But the one thing England haven't done this century, and in fact something the women have never done, is become World Champions. In fact, they've never reached the final, having lost in the semi-finals in the last two editions. The defeat to the USA in 2019 was compelling, showcasing an obvious gulf in class between the two sides.

England are a different animal now though. Sarina Weigman has helped England become tougher, more resilient. They're a team with real character who are sensational at their best, but have learned how to grind out a result if Plan A isn't working.

Every England game at the Euros up until the final showcased brilliant football, but when it came to Germany it was about digging in and finding a way to get a result, not necessarily playing the best football they could. A combination of the two styles will once again be required to succeed in Australia and New Zealand this Summer.

England's group is absolutely beautiful. Starting off against Haiti will be a good way to assess the system Wiegman wants to play without several key players. Leah Williamson, Beth Mead and Fran Kirby are all first-team regulars for England but will miss the tournament through long-term injuries.

Of course, the Lionesses shouldn't underestimate Haiti. They've qualified for the first time and whilst they won't be favourites in any of their games, the Caribbean side are going to be full of confidence and looking forward to taking on the European champions in their first-ever World Cup match. Their qualifying victory against Chile was celebrated as a huge success story for women's football in the Caribbean.

After the opener against Haiti, which England will be confident of winning, the games get tougher in perfect increments. The second game is against a tough Denmark team. They were eliminated from the Euros at the group stage with just three points from a 1 - 0 victory over Finland, but in fairness had to play Spain and Germany in a group of death.

The Danes were far more impressive in the recent Tournoi de France, beating a highly-rated Norway team 2 - 0. They did then lose the final 1 - 0 to hosts France but were far more impressive than they've shown in recent years. They continued that form into the April internationals, stunning Sweden 1 - 0 before beating previous World Champions Japan by the same score.

England then finish off their group against Asian Champions China. Much like Denmark, China will pose threats to England and make for a good opposition. Sarina Weigman's team will still be favourites but face a very good attacking team. In their successful Asian Cup campaign last year, China scored 19 goals in just five matches, beating South Korea 3 - 2 in the final.

The test will be a welcome one for England. Having started off against Haiti with a game where they're clear favourites, they move on to Denmark, who they should beat but will face more of a test against. Then they take on Shui Qingxia's side, a far tougher test of their World Cup credentials.

It'll be the first time in the tournament they take on a very dangerous attack, giving a defence which won't feature Leah Williamson a proper test before the knockout stages. Many teams have struggled in the past because of the immediate shift from a straightforward group to a far more difficult opening knockout match; England will not face that issue this Summer.

The knockout stage path doesn't look as though it'll be kind to England. Being in Group D, the Lionesses will face either Australia or Canada in the first knockout match unless one of their countries fails to make it out of Group B. Canada are a tough opponent, and gave England a very good game in the quarter-finals of the 2015 tournament. Australia though are absolutely incredible, and if England don't face them in the last 16, they likely will in a potential semi-final.

They've taken themselves into the top 10 of the FIFA World Rankings for the first time, and have assembled a very talented squad over the past couple of years. Even if they weren't hosts they'd be a team to avoid, but as hosts, they become a genuine contender to win the entire tournament. The Aussies beat England 2 - 0 at Brentford's Gtech Community Stadium back in April, albeit against an understrength England team.

Sarina Weigman is very good at working out an opponent however, Australia dealt her England team their very first defeat. She will have spent days pouring over the footage from the game, working out just how England can get the better of the hosts if they come up against each other at any stage of the tournament.

Beyond Australia, the biggest threat on England's side of the draw is Germany, and this time the Lionesses won't have the 90,000 fans at Wembley to push them on. Like England, Germany will be tested in their group but will be expected to win it. That puts them on track to face England in the last eight.

It's important to state that either side could win the game. Both are incredible football teams and have the talent and depth to beat anyone. But Germany have the desire for revenge, as well as a fantastic team. Since losing the Euro final, they've beaten the USA and Netherlands, the two finalists from the 2019 World Cup.

England have been on a fine run themselves, winning all of their games to retain the Arnold Clark Cup and winning the first Women's Finalissima, but Germany are formidable opposition. A rematch of the Euro 2022 final would be mouthwatering.

Then of course there's the USA. As mentioned before, they were a class above England in the 2019 World Cup, but they were beaten 2 - 1 at Wembley in the only meeting between the sides since.

It's going to be a long and difficult road for England to set up a game with the USA, which wouldn't be until the final. But if they can get there, given that they likely would've had to have gone through both Australia and Germany, there's a very good chance they could beat the defending champions. The American squad doesn't look as frightening as it did four years ago, especially given how far England have come.

England are definitely in the mix this Summer. They've got every chance to beat the big teams. They are one of the big teams. The difficulty is in having to play so many of them. The run they'll likely face through the tournament if they are to reach the final would see them take on China, Canada, Germany, Australia and the USA, all within the top 14 in the world rankings.

But this is England. We've seen this team do fantastic things under Sarina Weigman, winning all three trophies available to them so far. The girls will aim for four out of four this Summer!

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