Hege Riise ‘comfortable’ that England Women are moving in the right direction

Phil Medlicott, PA
·3 min read

England Women interim boss Hege Riise says that while she wants to see some improvements against Canada she feels “comfortable that we are moving in the right direction”.

The Lionesses were beaten 3-1 by France last Friday in Caen in the first of a double-header of friendlies.

They are now preparing to take on Canada at Stoke’s bet365 Stadium on Tuesday, their final fixture before Riise names a Great Britain squad in May for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics.

Riise told a press conference on Monday: “I feel comfortable that we are moving in the right direction.

Hege Riise, middle, leads England against Canada on Tuesday
Hege Riise, middle, leads England against Canada on Tuesday (Handout photo provided by the FA/PA)

“The players seem to have fun out there. Even though we always step on the field to win, if you look behind the loss, there are bits and pieces that I feel like (were) really good, and some things that we need to just clean up, and that’s what the next game will hopefully look like.”

Riise, whose side scored via a 79th-minute Fran Kirby penalty on Friday, added: “When we see the chances that France created and how clinical they are in finishing the chances, that’s the thing we need to be better at.

“We had the chances, we need to get a goal, that gets confidence. And I hope that’s something we can see against Canada. Also that defensive transition.”

England, who are currently without injured skipper Steph Houghton, also had her fellow defenders Lucy Bronze and Demi Stokes not involved in the France game due to minor injuries.

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Riise said a decision about Bronze for the Canada match would be made after a training session on Monday, and that she was hopeful of Stokes being ready to feature “for a few minutes”.

The Norwegian also said the plan was for “almost every” player in the squad to get game time across the two friendlies – 17 of 26 made an appearance in the France match.

When she was asked if it was the case that the Canada game was a final chance for players to put their hand up for GB selection, or whether she would be keeping an open mind when they return to their clubs, Riise said: “We’ll still keep an open mind. We will continue to watch all the games.”

Tuesday’s opponents are managed by Bev Priestman, who was England’s assistant boss under Phil Neville, while Riise is being assisted by a former Canada international in Rhian Wilkinson.

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Riise said: “Bev knows all of our players, but also Rhian is with me, she knows all the Canadian players – so between those two they know quite a bit about our squad and Canada as well.

“But for the England players, (I want them) to just go out, have fun, think about what the experience was from France and hopefully to make that a better performance in the area that we want and need to be better.”

Riise has the England interim head coach role, and GB job, after Neville stepped down as Lionesses boss in January. It is ahead of Sarina Wiegman taking permanent charge of the Lionesses in September, less than a year out from the team being hosts of the European Championship.

England’s first match under Riise – and first international in almost a year – was a 6-0 victory over Northern Ireland in February. The subsequent defeat on Friday was their eighth loss in 13 games.