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International Football: England Women deliver World Cup statement

England Women reaffirmed their position as one of the leading contenders for the Women's World Cup 2023 after successfully defending the Arnold Clark Cup.

After winning the inaugural 2022 tournament ahead of Spain, Canada and Germany, England Women came into this year's event as the firm favourites against lower-ranked opponents.

Attacking quality on show

Sarina Wiegman's side showcased their dominance throughout the tournament, beating South Korea 4-0 in their opener before overcoming a slight scare to defeat Italy 2-1 after that.

With Belgium having also earned a perfect six points from their first two matches, it all came down to the clash between the two unbeaten teams at Ashton Gate.

It turned out to be a rout for the Lionesses with braces from captain Leah Williamson and Chloe Kelly, who scored the winning goal in the Euro 2022 final, helping England on their way to a 6-1 success. 

Lucy Bronze's strike and a Julie Biesmans own-goal added to the scoring, while Elena Dhont's superb curling strike for Belgium in stoppage time was the only blemish on an otherwise perfect night.

WhatWomen's World Cup 2023
WhereAustralia and New Zealand
When20th July 2023 - 20th August 2023
How to watchITV & BBC
OddsUSA Women 7/2, England Women 7/2, France Women 6/1, Spain Women 6/1, Germany Women 7/1

World Cup preparations going smoothly

While England were the firm favourites to retain the Arnold Clark Cup, they still had to go out and perform and show they could handle the pressure of being a team with added expectations.

The Euro 2022 triumph appears to have lifted the Lionesses to another level and there is genuine belief they can go all the way at the Women's World Cup 2023, which takes place in Australia and New Zealand and starts in July.

Ultimately, the Arnold Clark Cup was intended to prepare Wiegman's side for the major event this summer and the head coach will have been very pleased with what she has seen.

There was plenty of rotation used over the course of the three matches and there were a number of players that stood out, including the tournament's top scorer Kelly, who bagged three times.

Lauren James was awarded Player of the Tournament and it was clear to see why from her performance against Belgium, who couldn't handle the Chelsea star's creativity and clever movement.

Speaking about the performance over the three matches, Wiegman said, as quoted by BBC Sport: "I think we are in a good place and the competition in the team is really strong.

"We still have five months to go but we know we have to step up more because the World Cup will be more of a challenge."

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Still work to be done

Whilst Wiegman is undoubtedly happy with the performances, there were not many times her side were tested, with the only real worrying moment coming in the second match when Italy equalised to make it 1-1.

The Lionesses ended up hitting back to win 2-1 and that spirit to rally is a good sign, but there will be bigger tests to come when they come up against better opposition at the World Cup.

Last year, all four teams in the Arnold Clark Cup were ranked inside the world's top 10, but England did not face anyone higher than 15th in this year's edition.

Still, you can only beat what is put in front of you and England did that with aplomb for the most part, scoring an impressive 12 goals in total and only conceding twice.

Wiegman is sure to ramp up the preparations as we get closer to the start of the World Cup, which the Lionesses are 7/2 To Win Outright.

England have never managed to lift that trophy before, having come closest in 2015 when finishing third. The Lionesses were knocked out at the semi-final stage by Japan that year before beating Germany in the third-place play-off.

More semi-final heartache was to come in 2019 when they went down 2-1 to the USA, who are 7/2 To Win Outright the trophy they went on to lift four years ago.

There is certainly a greater level of confidence in this England side than there has ever been and there is real hope they can deliver the goods just a year on from their Euro 2022 success.

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