Women’s Finalissima: England face Brazil at sold-out Wembley in historic first

England beat Belgium to win the Arnold Clark Cup in their most recent fixtureWomen’s Finalissima 2023 – England v BrazilDate: Thursday, 6 April. Venue: Wembley Stadium, London Kick-off: 19:45 BSTCoverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live & BBC Sounds & follow live text coverage on the BBC Sport website and app.After lifting the European Championship trophy at Wembley last summer, England have the chance to win another title in front of a sold-out crowd at their national stadium this week.

Sarina Wiegman’s side take on Brazil on Thursday in the first Women’s Finalissima – a match between the European and South American champions.

“It’s a great occasion,” said Wiegman. “There will be 90,000 people, so it’s going to be a really exciting environment and two teams who want to play football with a very good history in football.”

As the countdown gathers pace before the Women’s World Cup this July and August in Australia and New Zealand, this game offers both teams a chance to test themselves against quality opposition.

Here’s everything you need to know about Thursday’s match.

What England World Cup positions are up for grabs?Lionesses: Champions of Europe documentaryWhat is the Finalissima?’She needs to learn to Samba’ – Arsenal’s Williamson & Souza trade compliments before FinalissimaIt’s a one-off game between the champions of Europe and South America, although it’s not one that happens very often.

Last year brought the first Finalissima since 1993, with Argentina’s men’s team beating Italy 3-0 at Wembley.

Three Finalissimas have taken place in total – the first was in 1985, with France defeating Uruguay in Paris – but it has never featured women’s teams before.

Following the 2022 match, it was agreed between Uefa and Conmebol that a similar match between the women’s champions would take place at the same stadium the following year.

Brazil qualified as South America’s representatives on 30 July by beating Colombia 1-0 in the final of the Copa America Femenina. The following day, England secured their spot by beating Germany 2-1 after extra time in the Euro 2022 final.

Arsenal and Brazil defender Rafaelle Souza – the only England-based player in Brazil’s squad – said: “It is going to be a special night with all these people here. I feel special to have this opportunity. I played in the Olympics with 70,000 people and it was amazing.

“This game will be important not just for women’s football but for me as a player. I will tell my child I played at Wembley in front of 90,000 and it will be special for me.”

If there is no winner inside 90 minutes, the match goes straight to penalties.

‘This is the time of my life’Pia Sundhage became the first non-Brazilian to take charge of Brazil in 2019 after they lost in the last 16 of that summer’s World Cup to hosts FranceBrazil, ranked ninth in the world, have a familiar face at their helm in legendary Swedish coach Pia Sundhage.

She previously coached both Sweden and the United States, winning Olympic gold with the latter in 2008 and 2012 as well as taking them to the 2011 World Cup final.

The 63-year-old has certainly left her mark on English soil.

She scored the winning penalty against England as her country won the inaugural European Championship in 1984 at Luton’s Kenilworth Road. Five years later, she got the opening goal in England women’s first official match at Wembley – a 2-0 victory for Sweden.

“Back then we didn’t have any crowds at all,” said Sundhage. “It is a fantastic journey that women’s football has taken.

“When I was young, we didn’t have the players to look up to. And now you can mention a lot of great players and great role models and great coaches. This is the time of my life.”

Brazil will be without star striker Marta, who returned to action in the SheBelieves Cup in February after recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament injuryBrazil are missing their most experienced player – 37-year-old football icon Marta, who pulled out with a thigh injury.

The Orlando Pride forward is Brazil’s all-time leading scorer, with 115 goals in 175 games, and was part of the side who reached the 2007 World Cup final. She is hoping to play in her sixth tournament finals this summer.

Several players from Brazil’s Copa America-winning side are also missing through injury – Lorena, Tainara, Angelina and Debinha are absent, but Barcelona striker Geyse Ferreira and Palmeiras’ Bia Zaneratto should offer a goal threat.

“I’m so appreciative and really happy to play against one of the best teams in the world with the best coach in the world,” said Sundhage.

“We have an inexperienced team. If you look at our squad, we don’t have that many that played in the World Cup. So this will be fantastic to see how they deal with big crowds and playing against a good team.”

More experimenting from Wiegman?Lauren James scored her first goal for England in their Arnold Clark Cup win over South Korea in FebruaryWhile Wiegman was anything but experimental during the Euros, naming the same starting XI throughout, since the summer she has given new players a chance to stake their claim for a World Cup spot.

With Australia to come at Brentford’s Gtech Community Stadium next Tuesday, the England head coach is trying to strike a balance.

“We will experiment a little less because we have two games and are at a different stage but loads on players are high so we will try to manage that too,” she said.

“We will play to win but also to develop. Then we will see what we still want to see and how players come out of the game.”

Lauren James, Esme Morgan, Jess Park, Maya le Tissier and Katie Robinson have all been handed their debuts since the summer, while Chloe Kelly, Ella Toone and Alessia Russo have gone from being super subs to firm starters.

“It’s been really exciting to watch those youngsters coming in and expressing themselves in an England shirt,” the Lionesses’ record goalscorer Ellen White, who retired in the summer, told BBC Radio 5 Live.

One of those to particularly catch the eye is Chelsea forward James, 21, who only made her debut last September.

“Lauren James this season has burst on to the scene,” said White. “I just think that she’s got something different which none of the other players in that team have. She’s a really exciting talent.”

Can England go 30 games unbeaten?England will start the game as favourites at Wembley.

Ranked fourth in the world, Wiegman’s side are unbeaten since April 2021, a run of 29 fixtures, and have not suffered defeat under their Dutch coach. This includes victory at Euro 2022 and a win over world champions United States at Wembley last October.

As it stands, next week’s match against Australia is England’s last before they open their World Cup campaign against Haiti on 22 July.

Unlike England, the Brazilians come into the match with back-to-back defeats, having lost to the United States and Canada at the SheBelieves Cup in February.

They have also lost two of their three meetings with England – a 1-0 friendly defeat at Nottingham’s Meadow Lane in October 2018, and a 2-1 SheBelieves Cup loss in the USA in February 2019.

Brazil’s only victory over the Lionesses did happen on English soil however, a 2-1 friendly win at Middlesbrough in October 2019 – their most recent meeting.

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