Toone: I’ve worked on my strengths as well as weaknesses
After scoring in the Euro 2022 final against Germany at Wembley, Ella Toone has continued to flourish in the 12 months since that famous victory.
She added two more trophies to her cabinet with England – the Arnold Clark Cup and Women’s Finalissima, in which she also scored – and reached her first domestic cup final with Manchester United.
Reflecting on her year, she said: “In football, little things always develop you as a player and a person.
“For me, playing at Wembley in our first FA Cup final was massive and something that I really learned a lot from and it gave me that hunger to go and achieve even more. Every day in training, you give 100 per cent to be the best player you can be.
“I’m always trying to work on technical stuff. I’m always trying to see where I can do better, but also developing my strengths as well as weaknesses.
“I’ve worked a lot this year on using my body better, getting in the pockets and making a better decisions in the final third. Those little things I’ll keep trying to work on and hopefully they do help come the World Cup.”
It will be only the second major tournament for Toone, but an entirely different prospect from last summer’s home Euros. However, the midfielder is prepared for the challenge.
“There are definitely going to be a few barriers and a few things that are going to be difficult being away from home for so long, being on the other side of the world with the time difference,” she added.
“But I think we’ve got a great group of people that understand one another and will always be there for each other so when people do have down days, we will pick them up.
“We’re up against even tougher opponents but we’re just excited to get out there and to get going with it all, and make sure when we’re out there, we look after each other.”
England: How Spurs move can help at World Cup
While some players were all-but guaranteed to be included in Sarina Wiegman’s World Cup squad, there were plenty who had to fight for their spot – Tottenham striker Bethany England being one.
Her January move to Spurs from Chelsea for a British-record fee was, in part, to try and make the World Cup team, having also been part of the Euros-winning squad.
It paid off for England too, with 12 goals in 12 WSL games for Tottenham and returning to the Lionesses squad in time for their trip to Australia and New Zealand.
Discussing her decision to move earlier this year, England explained: “I think there was ultimately lots of reasons why I left, the World Cup being one of them.
“At first, it was entirely different. I’d say it was a culture shock as well as standard in a way because they were in a position where they were struggling. I’ve never been in a relegation battle before so that was a first for me. When you know you’ve got something to lose, it’s harder to not let the emotional side of it affect you.
“It was fighting day-by-day whereas at Chelsea, you’re so used to being in a position where you’re winning that you have not felt like that in a very long time.
“I had to take on a new role where I became more of a leader. I lead from the front, I was having to try and make things happen a lot more and obviously not having the ball as much as I’d been used to having it.
“I think in a way it’s changed part of my game and also strengthened other parts. People would say it paid off for me, but ultimately, I think if I’d stayed where I was, sat on the bench, I would never be here today.
“Hopefully it’s going to help me [at the World Cup] in terms of I can add goals for the team. I think that’s first and foremost my job as a striker and I want to put the ball in the net however it may go in.
“The biggest thing is leading into the World Cup, Sarina has been in a position where she’s been able to see me more, playing regularly, scoring goals, whereas I think going into the Euros, she’d only seen snippets of it.
“They know I can bring that to this team already too and hopefully I’m put in a position where I can help showcase that.”
Carter: My slow-burn season
Chelsea defender Jess Carter has found herself maintaining a regular presence in the England squad since last summer’s Euros, but admitted she found the start of the 2022/23 season difficult as she struggled for a permanent starting spot.
She said: “Personally leaving from the Euros, I didn’t go into the season with the best form or in the best shape because I didn’t play, I wasn’t at match fitness by the time the season came around so actually, it was a really slow burn for me.
“I didn’t really play until just before Christmas so that was really challenging to go from the Euros to the season, but gradually I managed to find my feet again and help Chelsea throughout the season.
“I didn’t deal with it very well to be honest in the first bit, but I think I just had to try and quickly figure out what I needed to do in order to get back to being fit and fresh. It came with having open honest conversations with England and my club on how I could do that.”
Carter is in a unique position too as a serial winner with both club and country. Chelsea won another domestic double last term with WSL and FA Cup triumphs, alongside two further England trophies.
When asked what the similarities and differences are between the two teams, Carter explained: “I think similar in terms of the standard is so high and the depth and quality in the squads of both teams is so high.
“In terms of differences, they are just a different style of play. Trying to adapt to one another when we come to England is something that I think I used to struggle with at the beginning, trying to build relationships with players that that you never play with so I think that can sometimes take its time to get that together.
“As similar as we are, each manager has a slightly different philosophy. They are two top managers who are both really successful, so just trying to adapt to each philosophy can sometimes be challenging but when we come here, Sarina explains what she needs and wants from the team quite easily so it’s easy enough to get on board.”
Morgan: My mentality has changed a lot this year
For Man City defender Morgan, she will be experiencing her first major tournament this summer, having become a staple in Wiegman’s squad over the last few months.
It completes a fine comeback for the 22-year-old after fracturing her leg in September 2021, having cemented her place in Man City’s starting XI and the England team.
When reflecting on the last 12 months, she said: “I think I’ve learned to be a lot more consistent because I never really had a patch with City where I was playing every single week, but this year, I managed to break in the team and establish myself as a regular starter.
“So it was just finding ways day-to-day in training to try and stay on task, be consistent, review games and find little areas where I can improve.
“I’ve learned so much from being on camps because I think it’s just another level when you are surrounded by the very best from your country, from other countries and who you’re playing games against. I think the Australia game, I learned so much from that in terms of my preparation and mindset.
“I’ve just taken a lot of valuable lessons and grown. The mental side of my game has developed a lot this year, keeping my confidence high, enjoying my football and being grateful to be able to play after being out for so long last year.”
Morgan has come into a pressure cooker environment, with many expecting big things from England following their Euros victory.
“Internally, you’re not really aware of these things,” she added. “I always think when you’re in the squad and you’re just training and playing day-to-day, a lot of the external narrative don’t kind of come into the group and that’s very much how I feel.
“We all seem to be really relaxed and not too hyper-focused on what we want to achieve. We want to do well, but we’ve got a great awareness that there’s a lot of very talented teams who have the same aspirations as us.
“But I think the experience that the girls who went to the Euros last year carry will be so vital once it does get into the competition and the noise becomes even louder.”
The group stage will begin on July 20 and run over a two-week period finishing on August 3 and see group winners and runners-up progress to the round of 16, which takes place from August 5 to August 8.
The quarter-finals, which will be held in Wellington, Auckland, Brisbane and Sydney, are scheduled for August 11 and 12.
The first semi-final will then be played on August 15 in Auckland, with the other semi-final taking place on August 16 at the Accor Stadium in Sydney, which will then host the final on August 20.
A third-place play-off will be played the day before the final on August 19 in Brisbane.