Published 24 February 2022 4 min read
The story of England's Arnold Clark Cup success
England boss Sarina Wiegman and forward Fran Kirby reflect on Arnold Clark Cup and what it might mean going into the summer of 2022
England Women kicked-off a busy 2022 in style in February, as they lifted the inaugural Arnold Clark Cup.
A 3-1 win over Germany lifted them to the top of the table in the four-team tournament which took place at three different venues across England as the nation counts down to this summer's EURO 2022 Finals on home soil.
Goals from Millie Bright and Fran Kirby late on secured the win for the Three Lions, after Ellen White put them ahead earlier in the game.
The three goals meant England had a superior goal difference compared to Spain in the tournament, who also ended on five points.
And with UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 approaching this summer, it was important for Sarina Wiegman’s side to have the opportunity to try out different tactics in a competitive environment.
“We expected three top-level opponents and we did get that,” said the head coach.
“We wanted to develop our style of play, get to know ourselves more [and] what options we have within our team.”
Bright was one of the standout players in the tournament, sharing the top scorer award with Balon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas.
She scored two of England’s four goals in the competition, with the opener in the first game against Canada and the second goal on Wednesday and helped keep a clean sheet against the formidable Spanish attack in Sunday’s draw at Carrow Road.
England’s tournament began with a 1-1 draw against Canada Women at the Riverside Stadium. Bright scored the only goal for England before Janine Beckie equalised for Canada. Despite the draw, England’s performance was a positive showing as they had only been beaten once in their previous four attempts.
The positions played by Kirby throughout the tournament was one of the ‘experiments’ carried out by Wiegman. The Chelsea forward started the opening game as a right-winger and played on the opposite side when coming on as a substitute against Spain.
Kirby once again started on the wing against Germany but moved into the attacking midfield position after Nikita Parris replaced Georgia Stanway. And the former Reading ace may have shown her manager the position where she is most influential after her 94th-minute goal.
“Towards the end of the game, I finished in a position where I was more comfortable but I will put in 100 per cent wherever I play, regardless in the middle or out wide,” said Kirby.
24 Feb 2022 7:23
Highlights: England 3-1 Germany
Watch the best of the action from Molineux as the Lionesses lift the Arnold Clark Cup
The Lionesses played in three different stadiums across the short tournament. They started at the previously mentioned Riverside Stadium, Carrow Road and finished the campaign at Molineux where they lifted the trophy.
Over 30,000 fans watched England across the three games and Manchester City forward Lauren Hemp hailed the impact of the fans in each of their three games.
“I’ve loved playing out there in three different stadiums and attracted so many fans, and the fans were unbelievable today (after the Germany match) like they have been all tournament,” she said.
“Hopefully we would have attracted lots of fans for the EUROs and they’ll follow us throughout our summer.”
Despite a few rough patches during the game, England's result against Germany was the highlight of the tournament. The team carried out the fundamentals and managed the game well in the dying moments.
Germany have often been a thorn in England’s side and before their win at Molineux, the Lionesses had only beaten Germany once in their history at the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
This win will help put a few demons to bed, and give England the confidence to do it again, if necessary, at the EUROs.
Although the tournament was useful for the England staff in terms of gaining more information about their strengths and potential weaknesses, Wiegman said there’s still work to be done before the summer.
“This was successful but we know there are five or six more teams that can win the tournament,” she said.
“Germany, Spain, those games were so tight that before the game we really don’t know who is going to win.”