Everything you need to know about the greatest international competition in women's football
February 2022 welcomes a brand-new international competition for women’s football, pitting four of the world’s best senior teams – England, Germany, Spain and Canada – against each other in a round-robin tournament across three matchdays: all hail, the Arnold Clark Cup!
With the inaugural edition held at home and fixtures spread across the country, plus with tickets starting from £10, the Arnold Clark Cup is an excellent opportunity to support the Lionesses and get a glimpse of top international talent. To help introduce the tournament properly, we take a closer look at what to expect and answer everything you need to know.
Simple! Teams will get three points for a win, one for a draw and none for a loss. The country with the most points at the end of the tournament is victorious, and if there’s a tie then the winner will be decided on goal difference.
By now, English football fans probably expect to make a long journey to the capital if they want to be a part of any international competitions, so it’s refreshing to see this tournament spread pretty evenly across the country. The games will be hosted in three stadiums: Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium; Norwich’s Carrow Row; and Woverhampton’s Molineux Stadium. The round-robin nature of the tournament means that all teams will play at each of the stadiums on the same respective matchday, so fans will have the opportunity to see all four teams in action regardless of which stadium they attend.
No pressure, but England’s first fixture will be against reigning Olympic champions Canada on 17 February at Riverside Stadium. They’ll then head to Carrow Row on 20 February to take on a fiercely on-form Spain. The Lionesses’ final fixture will be a classic international football rivalry, facing Germany (currently ranked world No.3) at Molineux Stadium on 23 February.
Here are the full fixtures:
17 February 2022 – Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough
20 February 2022 – Carrow Road, Norwich
23 February 2022 – Molineux, Wolverhampton
Though captaincy will of course be confirmed much closer to the competition, it’s highly likely that defender Irene Paredes will continue to lead the Spanish team, having worn the armband since October 2021. It would take especially exceptional circumstances to stop the decorated striker Christine Sinclair leading her Canadian squad.
It’s a little up in the air for England and Germany, however. Steph Houghton is still technically the England captain, but due to injury has yet to be in any of head coach Sarina Wiegman’s camps. Leah Williamson took up the mantle before her own injury in the autumn, which lead Wiegman to pass the armband on to Chelsea defender Millie Bright for the World Cup qualifiers, so there’s a good chance we’ll see the 28-year-old lead the Lionesses again in this competition. As for Germany, striker Alexandra Popp is still the current captain, but hasn’t been involved in recent camps due to injury. But, after nine months out of action, the Wolfsberg captain is reportedly close to a return.
The Ones To Watch
It almost goes without saying to keep an eye on Canada’s Christine Sinclair, who in 2020 became the highest international goal scorer, men or women’s, in history. At the time of publication, Sinclair has scored 188 goals for Canada, and her leadership was key to the side’s Olympic win. Oh, she’s also the most capped active international player with an astonishing 308 caps for her country. An up-and-comer to watch is Chelsea midfielder Jessie Flemming, says Girls On The Ball’s Rachel O’Sullivan: “Look out for Jessie Fleming who is both the present and future of that team. She’s got attacking flair and showed serious nerves of steel from the penalty spot in the Olympic final. It was a really impressive tournament from such a young player.”
On the England side, it’s Fran Kirby, another Chelsea player, who’ll be the focus of much attention. In spite of a serious setback in 2019 when she contracted a rare condition pericarditis, the forward eventually made a recovery and then some; Chelsea head coach Emma Hayes admitted that “in the course of my 25-year career, I’ve never seen a player transform their life as much as her.” Since her return Kirby has been instrumental in her club’s success in the FA Women’s Super League.
Germany are perhaps the most established in the competition, given that they’ve won two World Cups and eight European Championships. This experience will certainly give the squad an edge, and Bayern Munich captain Lina Magull will be key to that in midfield. Her Bayen teammate Giulia Gwinn is also one to watch, having taken home the FIFA Best Young Player Awars at the 2019 France World Cup.
As for Spain, well they’re about as star-studded as it gets. Barcelona captain, Ballon D’or winner, UEFA player of the year and FIFA player of the year, Alexia Putellas is probably the best place to start. “She really is the best in the world at the moment”, says O’Sullivan. Finishing 2021 as the highest goal scorer in women’s football with 51 goals, Jenni Hermoso will also be looking to add to her tally.
Tickets for the 2022 Arnold Clark Cup are available here.