Salina Wigman likes to look on the bright side of things. In April, England lost 2-0 to Australia, ending their 30-game unbeaten streak. But Wiegmann, the team’s Dutch coach, deliberately focused on the positives.
“It sounds really weird and you always want to win, but I think this loss has taught us a lot,” she said a few weeks later at the England training facility at St George’s Park. explained in an interview. “More than anything, it showed us the urgency to do some things better.”
It’s an interesting time for England’s women’s team. While entering the Women’s World Cup as one of the favorites to win the tournament, she is also perhaps the most precarious after two mostly smooth sailing years under Wiegman.
The Lionesses are European champions and have made a big difference in women’s football in England with a win at home last year. A view figure like you’ve never seen before. A vibrant domestic league with record attendance. Victories over the past year against not only the reigning World Cup champions (USA), but also World Cup qualifiers such as Germany, Sweden and Spain. And expectations continue to grow that this is just the beginning.
“Everyone in this England team expects us to win,” Wiegman said.
But England are undoubtedly weakened champions in this World Cup. In the months since they won the European title, they have gone three in a match that began with the loss of one of their main starters, striker Beth Meade, to injury. Midfielder Fran Kirby also underwent knee surgery and will miss the World Cup. Leah Williamson, who captained England during their conquest, also tore ligaments in his knee, as did Meade. Her replacement captain, defender Millie Bright, who had just recovered from her own knee injury, was in question when the team boarded the plane to Australia.
Recent results have proved equally alarming. Following a loss to Australia, a lackluster 0-0 draw against Portugal saw a frustrated England fail to score a single shot on goal from 23 shots. England’s final pre-World Cup friendly against Canada ended in a goalless draw behind closed doors, making it the team’s third consecutive goalless draw.
But Wiegman remains pragmatic and down-to-earth. In her recent interview, she kept coming back to the same questions that were touchstones for her and her team. how do you want to play? What are your roles and responsibilities within the team? ”
She insisted on a game-by-game approach, telling her players that tactics, and perhaps more importantly times, would be determined on a day-by-day basis. Wiegman said that fluidity is in itself a motivating value, offering “opportunities for other players to play, take responsibility and show who they are”.
“That’s why we go back to thinking, ‘Okay, this is the next game,'” she said. “And we are here now.”
Of course, players have their own ambitions.
“We all have dreams and we all want to win,” said forward Lauren Hemp. “Let’s see how the tournament goes. ”
Manchester City defender Esme Morgan, 22, is one of the rookies in contention. “To be honest, it really emphasized that there are no fixed positions in the team,” she said after playing 90 minutes in the draw against Portugal. “Every position on the pitch is very competitive. When you actually train, you can see that the standards are very high.”
Lucy Bronze, one of the team’s oldest players, used her own history as a guide. “I entered 2015 as a young player and didn’t expect to play much, but in the end I played every game, scored and forced myself into the spotlight for a little bit. I broke,” she said. “Anything can happen at the World Cup.”
Wiegman has his own hopes for the team. “We also have high expectations,” she said. However, following her instructions, she stays in the present. She is not interested in discussing a possible round-of-16 rematch with Australia or clashes with the United States, Germany or anyone else if England decides to reach the knockout stages.
“Let’s start by saying, ‘Okay, I want to get out of the group stage,'” she said. “Then we’ll come to the next stage and we’ll see who’s ahead of us. It’s going to be very tough. And if we make it to the final, I hope so.
“It really doesn’t matter who is in front of us. We just want to win every game.”