By Alicia Pryzsienak

England Women will be looking to defend their SheBelieves Cup when the invitational tournament kicks off today in the United States. Starting their campaign against the US, last year’s World Cup winners, the girls are under pressure from boss Phil Neville to go out and succeed. “We’ve got to go there and win again,” Phil Neville told the BBC.

The inclusion of so many youngsters in the squad is an indication of the change in focus and direction of the England senior set-up. Birmingham City’s young goalkeeper Hannah Hampton, US-based striker Alessia Russo and Grace Fisk have all joined the squad’s training sessions in the US as part of their ongoing development, yet Fisk is set to be very active on the pitch after impressing Neville.

“With eight of our squad under the age of 23 - and six of them having competed in the WU20 FIFA World Cup - we are focusing on developing the incredible young talent we have in the women’s game with a keen eye on Euro 2021 in 16 months’ time,” said Neville. This ‘transformational moment’ for the England Women’s team emphasises that the youngsters are a key driving force behind the Lionesses’ ambitions for future success. After losing out to Sweden in the World Cup semi-finals, the Lionesses’ have had a rollercoaster few months and clearly have a strong desire to dominate ahead of a home Euros next year. 

England Women have been training hard in Florida ahead of the tournament.

Players to watch out for

Rose Lavelle, US midfielder

A standout player for the US in France last summer, Lavelle is known for her creativity on the ball and power to surprise. Shaped by Neild Bradford (ex-Bristol City player) at her local soccer academy, this World Cup and CONCACAF winner is driving the US team into a new era. Lavelle’s focus is on proving to Andonovski that her worth in the team is laser-like and she will most definitely be one to watch.

Bethany England, England forward

Although England is by far one of the most skilled players in the Women’s Super League, the Chelsea Ladies forward was left out of the World Cup squad last summer. “Bethany England’s story is incredible,” former England striker and team-mate Eniola Aluko told BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra. The Chelsea and England Striker has risen from ‘not fitting in’ to prolific soccer. If England can repeat her domestic goal scoring form in the international arena, there’s every chance the Lionesses could fly back home with the trophy.

Mana Iwabuchi, Japan forward

It may seem odd for a substitute to be considered as ‘one to watch’, but Iwabuchi has a track record of making an impact when it’s most needed. Iwabuchi has played a major role with her short passing and quick movement games, allowing for her to assist in wearing out teams who try to press, harrying them off rhythm. Her ability to take advantage of fatigue is what the Lionesses’ need to look out for. Iwabuchi’s smart approach is threatening but I have every faith that England’s back line will dominate. 

Jennifer Hermoso, Spain forward

There are few out and out strikers in world football who have endured a period of form like Jennifer Hermoso has. She is a playmaker and as comfortable with her left foot as she is with the right. A great talent who represents a real contribution offensively for the Spanish team, and her exquisite technique may stir some issues amongst the England backline. 

England kick off their campaign on tonight when they play the USA in Orlando at midnight, GMT. From Orlando, it’s on to New Jersey where Japan will be the opposition on Sunday 8th March at 6.15pm GMT, before the final match against Spain in Frisco on Wednesday 11th March at 9.15pm GMT.