Impetus’ Johnathan Stack was at the Lionesses’ media day at St. George’s Park for us and heard from England stars Rachel Daly, Alessia Russo, and Ebony Salmon (31/8/22).
Above: England in training at St. George’s Park yesterday. Photo: Johnathan Stack.
There was a joyous sense of atmosphere around St Georges’ Park, as England start preparing for their final two FIFA Women’s World Cup Group D Qualifiers.
It has been a month since the Lionesses were crowned European Champions in the incredible UEFA Euro 2022 Final. That extra-time victory against Germany at Wembley has taken women’s football in this country to a new level of popularity. With a massive rise in ticket sales at WSL clubs as well as clubs in the FA Women’s Championship, these England players have risen to a level of stardom previously unseen.
And rightfully so, they have captivated the hearts of the nation and inspired the next generation, with England’s final qualifying game against Luxembourg in Stoke-on-Trent sold out along with the friendly against World Champions USA at Wembley in October.
Everyone was in a celebratory mood at St Georges’ Park as the England team walked out to a guard of honour from all the staff members at the training complex. There was a relaxed session put on and at the end of the session, the England players and staff were joined on the pitch with all the staff at the St Georges’ Park Football Centre for a group picture with the UEFA Euro 2022 trophy.
The squad looked in high spirits, very content posing for pictures and signing autographs with Club Wembley members who were invited to join in the celebrations.
But now it is back to business for the Lionesses, with just one point needed to secure the top spot in Group D with a difficult away trip to Austria first up, England manager and UEFA Women’s Coach of the year Sarina Wiegman will be wanting the same outcome as the opening game of UEFA Euro 2022 in which England won 1-0 at Old Trafford.
Speaking ahead of the games against Austria and Luxembourg, England players Rachel Daly, Alessia Russo, and Ebony Salmon spoke to the press and gave their thoughts on what could be a crucial game where England win the group.
Daly said “I don’t think anything needs to change; we have come off the back of a successful summer. We know what we need to do, we know what Austria are about, we know what they can bring. But ultimately, we know what we need to need do, the focus remains firmly on us and what we can do and how we can control the game. It will be a tough game but one we will be more than prepared for”.
Manchester United’s Alessia Russo, one of the stars of the Euros was clear in her assertion that focus is all now on the future: “I think for us any game it is important to go out there and perform at the highest level, these games are really important to us now. Obviously, the summer was unbelievable, but it’s done now, and as harsh as that sound, we are focused on our next games and the World Cup next summer, they are two massive games and ones that we hope to go out there and perform”. Russo said.
Houston Dash’s Ebony Salmon, in red-hot goalscoring form for her club, spoke of the advantages she believes she has playing in the NWSL: “For me, it was just about performing and obviously you can do that wherever you are, but over there I feel like I have a little less pressure on me perform not being in the WSL in the league where the majority of the squad are.
“I think being out in the US, I am able to express myself as much as I want and work on everything I know I need to work on to be here, when performances are good and performances earn a call-up I can come back here and show what I am about”.
To this point, England has been perfect in qualifying eight wins from eight matches and scoring 68 goals with none conceded including 10-0 away wins in Luxembourg and Latvia with the reverse fixture being that record-breaking 20-0 home victory at the Keepmoat Stadium being the Lionesses biggest ever victory.
So now that the women’s European Championship is done and dusted with the trophy safely at St Georges’ Park, there are two games of World Cup qualifying left. The Lionesses now have the accolade of being the reigning European champions and will be looking to finish this campaign strong as well as looking to make a statement ahead of next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.