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Women's World Cup 2023 - Football: What we learned from England v USA

Euro 2022 champions England Women enjoyed another memorable night in front of a packed house at Wembley as they defeated USA Women 2-1 on Friday.

The friendly international was part of the Lionesses' 50th anniversary celebrations but it was also a chance for England to test themselves against arguably the leading contenders for next year's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

The USA have triumphed at four of the eight Women's World Cups, including the last two in 2015 and 2019, and their defeat at Wembley ended a 13-game unbeaten run.

England's European Championship success captured the public's imagination this summer and Beth Mead, who won the Golden Boot, is 2/5 to be named BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2022.

Mead's Arsenal teammate and England captain Leah Williamson is 20/1 to receive the award and Chloe Kelly, who scored the extra-time winner in the final against Germany, is 50/1.

What:Women's World Cup 2023
Where:Australia and New Zealand
When:20th July - 20th August 2023

Lionesses enhance their World Cup credentials

While Friday's clash was nominally a friendly fixture, there was no shortage of intensity as England took on the dominant force in international women's football in front of more than 76,000 supporters at Wembley.

Coach Sarina Wiegman sets high standards for her players, having led her native Netherlands to European Championship glory in 2017 before masterminding England's Euro 2022 triumph.

And Wiegman will surely have been impressed by the way the Lionesses went toe to toe with the USWNT, who have lost only four of their 50 matches at World Cup finals and are expected to go off as favourites for next summer's tournament.

England took a 10th minute lead through Lauren Hemp before the visitors equalised through Sophia Smith just before the half-hour mark. Less than five minutes later, though, Georgia Stanway's penalty restored the hosts' lead and that proved to be the final goal of the night.

The Lionesses rode their luck at times as the USA had a goal narrowly ruled out for offside and a late penalty overturned by VAR but they dominated possession, having 69 per cent of the ball and restricting the Americans to just two shots on target.

USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski hailed England as "an incredible squad" with "an incredible coach" and the Lionesses' performance certainly gained the respect of their main World Cup rivals.

England evolving after Euro 2022 glory

The USA were not at full strength for their trip to London with 119-goal striker Alex Morgan their most notable injury absentee.

However, England were also missing some key players as Euro 2022-winning captain Williamson suffered an injury in training, joining forward Alessia Russo on the sidelines.

The Lionesses' record goalscorer Ellen White and midfield stalwart Jill Scott announced their retirements after the Euros and 13 of the 23 players named in Wiegman's latest squad were aged 25 or younger.

Two of those fresh faces were on the scoresheet as 22-year-old Hemp, playing in an unfamiliar centre-forward role in the absence of Russo and White, broke the deadlock inside 10 minutes.

And Stanway, just a year older than Hemp, showed her big-match temperament once again, converting from the penalty spot after VAR ruled that Lucy Bronze had been kicked in the face.

Midfielder Stanway and defender Bronze both left Manchester City in the summer to take on new challenges at Bayern Munich and Barcelona and those moves illustrate the high regard in which England's European champions are held.

Skipper Williamson is just 25 years old while Manchester United striker Russo, at 23, has scored 10 goals in just 15 international caps so the age profile of the Lionesses' squad is another positive for their 2023 World Cup backers.

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European contingent pose threat to US dominance

Despite their friendly defeat at Wembley, the USA have to be regarded as favourites to land a third consecutive World Cup title next year.

And, while England proved themselves the best team in Europe this summer, continental rivals such as Spain, Germany and France should also be prominent in the World Cup betting.

Spain, ante-post favourites for the Euros, were dealt a major blow on the eve of the tournament when star midfielder Alexia Putellas suffered a serious knee injury. The Ballon d'Or winner is unlikely to feature before the end of the 2022/23 club season but hopes to be fit for the World Cup, which starts on 20th July 2023.

Spain played their part in a high-quality quarter-final against England at Euro 2022, which was settled by a brilliant Stanway strike in extra-time, and they should go well in Australia and New Zealand.

Germany also suffered extra-time heartbreak against England in the final of the Euros after their in-form striker Alexandra Popp had been injured in the warm-up.

Wolfsburg ace Popp scored both goals in Germany's 2-1 semi-final win against France at Euro 2022 and she repeated that feat with a brace against Les Bleues in another 2-1 victory for the Germans on Friday.

Germany have won eight of the last 11 Women's European Championships and have to be respected at the World Cup while co-hosts Australia have prolific Chelsea striker Sam Kerr leading the line.

However, Wiegman's young Lionesses are clearly growing in confidence as they bid to improve on their runs to the World Cup semi-finals in 2015 and 2019.

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