Hege Riise looking at France test as a chance for England to ‘prove ourselves’

Phil Medlicott, PA
·3-min read

England Women interim boss Hege Riise says the mentality for Friday’s friendly against France in Caen should be wanting to “go after them and prove ourselves”.

Having beaten Northern Ireland 6-0 in February in their first match under Riise – and their first international in almost a year – the Lionesses next take on a team lying third in the world rankings, three places above them.

The game against Les Bleues is then followed by a clash on Tuesday at Stoke’s bet365 Stadium with Canada, who are joint-eighth in the rankings.

Riise saw England beat Northern Ireland 6-0 in her first game in charge in February (Handout/FA/PA).
Riise saw England beat Northern Ireland 6-0 in her first game in charge in February (Handout/FA/PA).

Riise said at a press conference on Thursday: “We play against a good opponent, number three in the world. It’s a long time since we had that good competition.

“Playing Northern Ireland was good for us, a good start – the next two games now we play a stronger opponent, and that will see the character, where we are, and what we need to go forward.”

She added: “It will be a difficult game for us, but I think our mentality now should be we want to go after them and prove ourselves and show we are a good team.

“What we have been working on, to see that during the game, to see the confidence in the players – that is what we want.”

Following the double-header of England friendlies, Riise in May names her 18-player Great Britain squad for the Tokyo Olympics.

When asked about that squad on Thursday, the Norwegian said: “I try not to talk too much about it.

“They (the players) know the competition, but still I want them to be relaxed and play their best. More relaxed, having fun, this is what we all love, get on the field and play.”

Riise said that while “there are certain players that almost for sure will be in” the GB squad, she could “not say any numbers”, and added: “I need to sit down when these two games are done, look at all the home nation players and decide after that.”

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An absentee from the squad for the France and Canada games is injured captain Steph Houghton – Riise said she had decided who will be England’s skipper for the two matches, but would not disclose the player’s name.

Lyon forward Nikita Parris was initially missing from the squad following positive coronavirus cases at her club, before coming in late, having been cleared to do so after testing negative.

It is the first time Riise has been able to work with Parris, and she said of the 27-year-old: “It’s been good.

“That’s why I have been wanting her, even though she came late, to have her in a couple of sessions before heading out to France. It was good for her to be back on the team. It’s a long time now since she was in the squad. She’s happy and we are happy.

Nikita Parris was a late call-up to the squad (John Walton/PA).
Nikita Parris was a late call-up to the squad (John Walton/PA).

“She’s ready. She’s been in two sessions now, looking good, happy, enjoying being back, a great energy coming in.”

France’s absentees include captain Amandine Henry, after the Lyon midfielder tested positive for Covid-19 last weekend.

Asked if she thought France, given the Lyon situation, would still be quite close to their best on Friday, Riise said: “I expect so. I think they have great players. I’m expecting a great, great team tomorrow.”