After an up-and-down 2019, England will be looking to turn the tide back in their favour in 2020, starting with their SheBelieves Cup defence…
2020 SheBelieves Cup, from Thursday 5 March, available on the BBC and BBC iPlayer
England were sort-of-but-sort-of-not “outsiders” heading into last year’s SheBelieves Cup, and yet, with a string of gutsy, attacking performances that had us all dreaming of a subsequent World Cup success in the summer, they only went and won the thing!
A fiery Brazil side were sent packing in the opener (“adeus”, said Phil Neville… probably). Then came a plucky and unfortunate draw with the States, after which Japan were eviscerated with a rampant 3-1 win that secured England their first SheBelieves title (“sayonara!”, Phil screamed… probably).
And then… well, they lost a World Cup semi-final, and haven’t quite been the same since. As such, plenty of questions hang over the reigning SheBelieves Cup champions as they prepare to once again lock horns with the recently crowned, now four-time World champions the USA, a rejuvenated Japan and, making their SheBelieves Cup debut, Spain.
So, without further ado, read on to familiarise yourself with said questions before the tournament gets under way in Orlando’s Exploria Stadium this coming Thursday…
Can England overcome their post-World Cup malaise?
Though their World Cup performances once again had a nation sharing “It’s Coming Home” memes for a second summer in succession, following their brutal semi-final loss to eventual World Cup winners the USA, the Lionesses have won just two of their last seven games.
It’s been a brutal run for a team so high on confidence this time last year. But while the SheBelieves Cup doesn’t quite have the prestige of the Euros or the aforementioned World Cup, it’s a great testing ground for Phil Neville; a result in America likely providing a huge, and timely, confidence boost.
Is Andonovski the “next Ellis”?
After back-to-back World Cup successes (despite, if rumours are to be believed, losing the dressing room) Jill Ellis’ departure heralded a Ferguson/Wenger-esque ending of an era.
Highly regarded coach (and Bond villain name-sporting) Vlatko Andonovski seems an ideal replacement given his, at the time of writing, 100% winning record. For both fans and fellow professionals, this tournament will present an opportunity to see his side showcase their new recipe for success on an international stage.
Can Spain cause an upset?
The Spaniards enter this tournament as something of an unknown entity. The lowest-ranked team of the four (a lowly – but still impressive – 13th in the world) Spain have nothing to lose and, ahead of next summer’s Euros, will be keen to prove they have what it takes to challenge for titles.
A round of 16 defeat to the USA belied what was an impressive tournament for the Spaniards, and an unexpected upset remains on the cards, with Jorge Vilda’s side arriving in the US off the back of two wins in their last three.
Can Japan bounce back?
Following a strong SheBelieves Cup run of their own in 2018, Japan arrived at last year’s tournament hoping to go one better and clinch the trophy, only to slump to a disappointing third place. An equally disappointing run in the World Cup heralded a 2019 that could have been very, very different had they fulfilled their potential.
This year is their chance to turn it back around. Having won five matches on the bounce (albeit against weaker opposition than they’ll face this coming week), the 1991 World champions seem to have rediscovered their mojo. A worrying prospect, for the Lionesses.
Live 2020 SheBelieves Cup matches on the BBC
Spain v Japan, Thursday 5 March, 9.05pm, BBC Two HD (CH 102) and BBC iPlayer
USA v England, Thursday 5 March, 11.45pm, BBC Two HD (CH 102) and BBC iPlayer
Japan v England, Sunday 8 March, 7.15pm, BBC Four HD (CH 107) and BBC iPlayer
USA v Spain, Sunday 8 March, 10pm, BBC iPlayer
England v Spain, Wednesday 11 March, 9.15pm, BBC Four HD (CH 107) and BBC iPlayer
USA v Japan, Wednesday 11 March, midnight, BBC iPlayer
When is the SheBelieves Cup on TV?
All three of England’s games can be watched on the BBC and on BBC iPlayer, with all other matches also available to watch live on iPlayer.
TV channels: Channels, content and features available depend on your chosen package. Channel line-ups and content are subject to change at any time and to regional variations.
HD: HD TV set, V HD Box, TiVo box or Virgin TV V6 connected with HDMI cables required for HD channels. Number of inclusive HD channels depends on package.