Above: Millie Bright and Sarina Wiegman pictured at the Lionesses’ media conference today. Photo: FA.
Ahead of the England v Germany Arnold Clark Cup match tomorrow, Impetus’ Kris Goman heard the views of Lionesses head coach Sarina Wiegman and defender Millie Bright (22/2/22).
England go into their final Arnold Clark Cup match tomorrow with Germany in Wolverhampton knowing they need a win to have any chance of winning the tournament, but have the positive of the whole squad being available for selection.
In the two games against Canada and Spain so far, lots of players got minutes against different and top opponents. “We got lots of information about how we want to play and how we want to develop our style of play and how the players fit in there,” Wiegman said. “We’ll try again tomorrow to continue what we’re doing and make it even better and we might see some slight changes in positions.”
Germany’s squad has been hampered by both COVID and injuries and the Lionesses head coach recognised that despite this, they will still pose her team a major threat.
“They are still a very strong squad. They are always a very good team and even though they are missing some very good players, they still have good players and can bring a very good squad tomorrow so we expect a good Germany – a very competitive game with a lot of speed and power so we prepare as we did against Canada and Spain.”
In terms of the development of her own team, Wiegman noted that there has been some pleasing progress across the two games so far.“Yeah, we’re getting there and taking steps and developing very well. I think the communication and the way we talk about football, how the players are committed and get into conversations and get to learn about each other have been positives.”
The Lionesses’ head coach though still has high expectations of her squad in terms of further improvements. “We just want to take the next step tomorrow so in all the different moments of the game we want to improve again. I think we created so many chances against Spain that we would really like to score a goal and to take that next step. It all has to do with decision-making, with the final connection between the players and just being (more) ruthless too.
“I knew the England squad was very good but it was even better than I thought. Players have already so much experience and there are lots of personalities in the team so I was just lucky to come in and start working with such a good team and good players. We want to add something to the game and get clarity about our style of play and development. Every time we want to take the next step and that’s what we want to do tomorrow.”
Impetus’ Kris Goman asked Wiegman about the crowds for the games not involving her side in this competition, which, due to a combination of unusual kick-off times and poor weather have been very low indeed.
“I think in the Euros there will be crowds because that’s the big event everyone’s looking forward to,” the England head coach said. “I think this tournament is so competitive. I’m not sure if it’s the weather, or it’s the timings. I think that COVID didn’t help like all the previous years and that people have to start up again. That might be it.
“I’ve really had my focus on football and the game itself so I haven’t had a real research myself about what the cause could be but I hope at least we make people enthusiastic about the games because the level’s really high.”
In England’s two matches to date, they have scored one goal – Millie Bright’s superb effort against Canada. Wiegman is looking for a greater sense of sharpness in the final third tomorrow night.
“It doesn’t really matter who scores goals as long as we score a goal. We want to do better in our final third and that’s about decision making, about connection, about scanning how the situation is, and being ruthless, so yes, of course we want to do a little better.
“We created lots of chances (against Spain) and it was very well done and I think we played really well to create those chances and now we want to score on them too and that’s just the final touch which is the hardest thing in football in the final third so hopefully we can show tomorrow.”
The Lionesses’ Chelsea defender Millie Bright, who is in some of the best form of her career spoke of her excitement of facing Germany once more.
“These are the games we play for. You want to play against the best, you want to play on big stages, with lots of fans there. For us, we remain focused on our game plan and this tournament’s been about developing as a squad on this new journey and to perform at our best level and that’s our mentality going into this game.
“Everyone’s our rival. I think it’s a good mentality to have as you can’t underestimate any team whether they’ve got players missing. You know, it’s international football and everyone’s got strong squads so for us, everyone is our rival and it’s no cliché saying that but that’s our mentality. To play the same for every game. Every opponent we want beat, we want to play well and keep developing.
England’s goalscorer against Canada reflected on the tough challenges that the Arnold Clark Cup has brought so far. “It’s been brilliant. All the girls are really excited coming into this tournament especially with it being in England. Being able to get our fans to the stadium and move around England as well. It’s been really exciting and I think it’s been really successful and we’ve loved playing against top teams and being challenged.”
Bright was also hugely complimentary about the Lionesses’ debutant goalkeeper Hannah Hampton on Sunday against Spain. “It was a massive moment for her but it’s one that’s truly deserved. I think she’s been playing really well. And yeah, she was just ecstatic like any other player would be.
“She was just really happy and she played really well, kept us in the game, made some good saves, really good distribution so yeah, it’s a dream start for her and just really proud and that’s something we want in this team.
“It’s not just about eleven players, it’s about everybody and everyone developing together. You know we’ve all got the one goal which is obviously to win and by doing that we need everyone together so it was really nice to see her on the pitch doing what she does best.”
Impetus‘ Kris Goman asked the defender about the challenges of coming together with players who, in club world are fierce rivals, and conversely meeting club colleagues turning out for other nations.
“When you’re at club, you’re at club. I think every game’s competitive. If you watch the WSL games, there’s a lot of grit, a lot of fire, there’s commitment and everyone plays at the highest level, same when we come away internationally.
“For me personally, there’s no friends in football so if you’re my teammate at my club and I’m playing for England then I’m representing England so that’s my mentality with it and I think that’s everyone else’s as well. I think the games that you’ve seen, everyone’s committed, there’s some brilliant tackles, there’s a desire to win and to put on a show for the fans so yeah, I think it’s really competitive and I think the level is really high.”
The final line of Germany’s defence is someone who Bright knows very well. Her Chelsea team-mate Ann-Katrin Berger, who is having a superb season. “She’s been doing exceptional for Chelsea. Everyone knows the level she is at as a keeper and she’s in excellent form. I rate her very highly.”
England play Germany at Molineux (Wolverhampton Wanderers FC) at 7:30pm. Canada face Spain at the same venue at 2:30pm.