Wiegman: It’s Absolutely A Big Game

Impetus’ Ben Gilby was in the Lionesses’ squad announcement press conference with Sarina Wiegman this morning and listened to the England head coach discuss her thoughts about the selection, the looming clash with Austria, and how she sees the women’s game in the country after the incredible European Championship triumph last month (24/8/22).

Above: England head coach Sarina Wiegman speaking to the media this morning. Photo: Sky Sports.

Lionesses head coach Sarina Wiegman began the next chapter in the England national team’s story as she selected her first squad since July’s European Championship success.

Over the last week, the Lionesses have had to come to terms with the retirement announcements of both Ellen White and Jill Scott. Also missing from the squad announced today are the trio of Hannah Hampton, Chloe Kelly, and Fran Kirby.

Wiegman is able to welcome back Jordan Nobbs from injury and has also handed a return to the international fold to Ebony Salmon, who has been in a rich vein of scoring form for Houston Dash in the NWSL. Also back is Chelsea’s Lauren James – a first Lionesses call-up since November 2020. Sandy McIver and Katie Zelem are also given recalls.

Above: Chloe Kelly, scorer of the goal that won the Euros for England is out of the Lionesses’ forthcoming World Cup qualifiers with Austria and Luxembourg, Photo: Lionesses.

Speaking about the loss of Kelly, Kirby, and Hampton, the Lionesses head coach said: “They are OK, but Chloe has a small injury with her leg, it is too early for her at present. Fran – it is too early for her, she should be OK. She hasn’t had too much training, so she just needs more time. Hannah has some personal issues that she has to solve, so it is better for her at the moment that she stays with her club.”

Asked about the loss of England legends Scott and White, Wiegman was effusive in her praise for the pair: “Their impact – they have played for the national team so much. It’s disappointing I can’t work with them for longer, but I respect their decision. They are incredible, we are so proud of them and what they have brought to the game. I hope they stay in the game.”

However, the Lionesses head coach emphasised that her team has some excellent leaders to overcome the loss of the retired pair.

Above: Leah Williamson’s impact as captain at the Euros is one example of the strong group of leaders within Sarina Wiegman’s team. Photo: Lionesses.

“Leah (Williamson) grew into the role (of captain) so well. I do think that the dynamics of the team will change a bit, we will absolutely miss those two, but things will stabilise over the next few camps. We already have other leaders in the team.”

Explaining her thoughts behind the re-calls to several of the players brought into the squad, Wiegman said: “It was very unfortunate that Jordan got injured and she worked hard to get back and so we want to see her in our environment, particularly with Fran (Kirby) unavailable.

“Lauren James has played some minutes for Chelsea over the summer and we want to give her a chance and see what she can do with the national team. Ebony, over the last year and a half, has had a spot in the U23s. She has moved to Houston Dash and is a real goalscorer, so I want to see what she can do now. She has done so well.”

Above: Ebony Salmon in action in a previous appearance for England against Northern Ireland. Photo: Lionesses.

Asked by Impetus about the new set of challenges that England face with teams having extra motivation to bring down the European champions, Wiegman outlined why she believes her team are more than capable of dealing with them.

“I have noticed already that all the countries want to beat England. Now as the European Champions, everyone wants to chase you. We just want to perform at the highest level we can and do our job really well, connect as a team. We can beat all the countries, we just need to stick together. I think it’s nice that all the countries want to beat us!

“Winning the Euros was a fairytale. Expectations were high. There are so many things you hope for – that things go well. That the hopes came real was really nice.”

Above: Lionesses head coach Sarina Wiegman is aware of the threat that Austria pose. Image: FA.

With the first of England’s two forthcoming World Cup qualifiers being against Austria, who had a strong Euros themselves, the England head coach highlighted the stiffness of the challenge that her side will face in Vienna.

“It’s absolutely a big game. I don’t think there will be many changes compared to how they were this summer. They want to chase us, they want to qualify directly for the World Cup against us. We won’t have 90,000 people behind us, but I think we can do the job.

“After the Euros, the players were talking about qualifying for the World Cup and wanting to do well there too. Every game we are hungry to win and do well.”

Above: The strength and togetherness in the England team is a key to their present status. Photo: Lionesses.

Looking ahead to the longer term, Wiegman outlined the latest situation in regard to a potential extension to her contract as England head coach: “I have spoken to the FA, I already have a contract for three years, so we don’t have to do that conversation tomorrow. Now it is about the squad and the games. Then we will have a conversation. I am really happy that they are reaching out to me.”

Wiegman reiterated her determination for the legacy of England’s Euros success to filter down from the WSL to the next generation of female footballers.

“What we want is change. Getting a boost to the women’s game in England, Europe, and the world. We want to change society a bit. The games are sold out, the knock-on impact on the Super League is important. We collaborate well. The players are so fit, and that is not because of 11 FIFA windows, that is the work of the clubs.”

She was delighted with the recent announcement that £92,000,000 will go into funding new sporting facilities, pinpointing the importance of this development.

“The chances for little girls need to be better. The players have asked for that too. It’s good that a plan is in place to encourage little girls to play. It’s important for society and inclusion. They need to be encouraged and given facilities.”

Sarina Wiegman, England head coach.

ENGLAND SQUAD FOR WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS AGAINST AUSTRIA AND LUXEMBOURG:

Goalkeepers: Mary Earps, Sandy McIver, Ellie Roebuck.

Defenders: Millie Bright, Lucy Bronze, Jess Carter, Rachel Daly, Alex Greenwood, Demi Stokes, Leah Williamson, Lotte Wubben-Moy.

Midfielders: Jordan Nobbs, Georgia Stanway, Ella Toone, Keira Walsh, Katie Zelem.

Forwards: Beth England, Lauren Hemp, Lauren James, Beth Mead, Nikita Parris, Alessia Russo, Ebony Salmon.

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