Rachel Daly shows she can do it all with timely boost to Lionesses’ World Cup plans

 (The FA via Getty Images)
(The FA via Getty Images)

After Ellen White retired in August, the worry for Sarina Wiegman was that the Lionesses would be left with just one elite striker.

Besides Alessia Russo, England have slim pickings up front ahead of this summer’s World Cup. Yet, maybe, the answer to who should be Russo’s deputy was right under the England manager’s nose the whole time.

Rachel Daly scored two precision headers against Italy on Sunday to strengthen her case for a role at the World Cup.

Daly is made of tough stuff. She has enjoyed a nomadic career as a striker, starting at Leeds, before moving to the US and spending six successful years as Houston Dash’s go-to goalscorer. Her assignment with England was always different from her role at club level, though. Since her Lionesses senior debut in 2016, England have used her as a utility player.

The 31-year-old was never a one-trick pony anyway — shorter, slighter and more technically gifted than most centre-forwards.

Daly is built more like a full-back than a striker. During her seven-year international career, she has displayed real versatility, often deployed as a right-back or on the right wing.

During England’s triumphant Euros campaign last summer, she started every game for the eventual champions at left-back, playing ahead of Alex Greenwood, despite being right-footed. She was not positioned there because Wiegman had lost a dare; defensively, she is as solid as a rock. There are few more respected Lionesses than Daly: she never shirks a challenge, speaks glowingly of her team and self-effacingly about her own exploits.

Daly left America for Aston Villa last summer and has 16 goals in 18 games for the Villains this season, playing in her favoured position as a No9, though she would never admit that.

“I’m not bothered. It’s the truth. I think you guys care about where I play more than I do,” she said after scoring a brace against Italy.

Russo’s impact off the bench at the Euros will make her the starting No9 at the World Cup, but if Daly’s double against Italy showed Wiegman anything, it was that the WSL’s joint top-scorer is wasted at full-back.

Daly may lose her starting berth for the World Cup, but it would mean featuring where she does most damage: up front. England would be stronger for it.