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Rachel Yankey exclusive interview: ‘England’s attack is their biggest strength’

The Women’s World Cup is well underway down under, with England kicked off their campaign by narrowly beating Haiti 1-0 on Saturday.

The Lionesses take on Denmark in Sydney on Friday, before completing the group stages against China PR on Tuesday.

Rachel Yankey won 129 caps for England during her 16-year international career, powerful thing for England and we spoke to her about the European Champions’ chances of going all the way this summer.

Rachel Daly: left-back or number nine?

One of the main talking points surrounding this England team concerns Rachel Daly, who started all six Euro matches at left-back, but then won the FAWSL golden boot, deployed as a striker by Aston Villa.

Yankey believes Daly ‘can do a fantastic job at full-back, but I always felt that she is a forward….. she’s a player that is quite happy to play wherever’.

Alessia Russo got the nod up top against Haiti, but Yankey suggested that it should be Daly who starts going forward.

427 minutes without a goal from opener play

Georgia Stanway’s retaken penalty against Haiti was England first goal for four games, but the Lionesses have now gone over 427 minutes without a goal from open play, dating back to April’s Finalissima against Brazil

Yankey isn’t too concerned by this, claiming ‘you only need one moment and then it swings it all around. I think what would worry me is if they weren’t getting in positions, if they weren’t opportunities and chances’, however, goals do ‘change the atmosphere, they they change how you feel, especially strikers’.

Which players will be able to step up?

This England squad is nowhere near as strong as last summer’s European Championship winning team.

Ellen White and Jill Scott have retired, while captain Leah Williamson, Beth Mead and Fran Kirby are all out injured.

Despite these absentees, Yankey is still confident that England’s attack is their ‘biggest strength’, adding ‘we’ve got real strength in depth there… players that can produce moments that win you games, whether that’s from the bench or if they’re starters’.

Ella Toone came off the bench in all six Euros matches, breaking the deadlock in the final, but started as the number ten role against Haiti, deputising for the absent Kirby.

However, Toone was largely ineffective, with many fans are calling for Lauren James to get the nod against Denmark, with Yankey claiming the Chelsea star has ‘fantastic’ technical ability, adding ‘she’s got an eye for a pass’, also describing James as ‘ technically brilliant on the ball’.

She adds that James won’t be ‘phased by getting on the ball and playing in big moments in big games’ which can be a ‘powerful thing for England’ and exactly what they need right now.

Yankey is hopeful that when England face higher-calibre opposition, their performance levels will rise too, saying ‘once you play against the better teams, you up your standard’.

England’s Women’s World Cup group stage fixtures and results

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Ben Gray

Arsenal fan – follow them over land and sea (and Leicester); sofa Celtic supporter; a bit of a football '"encyclopedia".

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