Hannah Hampton, Katie Zelem and Alessia Russo have been recalled to the England women’s squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Northern Ireland and Latvia.
England’s manager, Sarina Wiegman has selected Zelem, the Manchester United captain and midfielder, ahead of Arsenal’s Jordan Nobbs as she aims to build on the 8-0 and 10-0 victories against North Macedonia and Luxembourg that were her first two games in charge.
England are top of their 2023 qualifying group before their first competitive game at Wembley, where they face Northern Ireland on Saturday week, before playing in Riga the following Tuesday.
Injuries to usual starters, including the captain, Steph Houghton, the right-back, Lucy Bronze, and the goalkeeper, Ellie Roebuck, have forced Wiegman into a degree of experimentation, although the return to fitness of the Manchester City midfielder Keira Walsh restores a familiar face to that area.
While Roebuck’s absence affords Aston Villa’s Hampton a chance to win her first cap in goal, Zelem receives her second national call-up – and first in a competitive context – after being forced to withdraw from a training camp last year when she contracted Covid.
“We do still have one or two injuries to key players to contend with but the depth in our squad is very strong,” said Wiegman, who has selected United’s Russo in preference to Racing Louisville’s Ebony Salmon in attack.
The Wembley game may come too early for Ellen White to break Kelly Smith’s record as England women’s top scorer. The City forward has scored 43 times, three behind Smith, but Wiegman would not be drawn as to when and if White could overtake Smith.
“I can’t see into the future,” said the former Netherlands coach.
With Nobbs, one of England’s most naturally gifted midfielders, having recently recovered from an ankle injury Wiegman suggested a recall could soon be on the cards. “We keep a very close eye on her,” she said.
“We know her history. She’s pretty close. She just needs to get more minutes. She hasn’t played that much for her club.”