Selection headache as Sarina Wiegman ‘does not know’ strongest England line-up
England boss Sarina Wiegman says she “does not really know” her strongest starting line-up at the moment, with five months to go until the start of the World Cup.
The Lionesses started Sunday’s 2-1 Arnold Clark Cup win over Italy with an XI showing nine changes from the 4-0 thumping of South Korea in Milton Keynes three day earlier.
England will complete a successful defence of the trophy if they avoid defeat against Belgium in Bristol on Wednesday.
👋 from camp! pic.twitter.com/kNAn7avao8
— Lionesses (@Lionesses) February 21, 2023
And when Wiegman – who kept an unchanged starting XI through last summer’s triumphant Euros campaign – was asked about selection for Wednesday, she said: “Of course we want to win the tournament, we want to also manage the load a little bit.
“We don’t really know the strongest XI at this moment, we don’t have to know yet, but it shows that our team is really good. It’s hard to make decisions.”
Alessia Russo started at centre-forward in the South Korea game and netted the third goal before the versatile Rachel Daly scored a brace, having been handed the role on Sunday, and Wiegman said: “It’s very exciting because we have so many good number nines and more good strikers.
“It’s going to be a hard one too (deciding who plays there in the months ahead), but that’s what we want.”
She added: “I think the depth in the squad is growing, so what you see now is, it is really hard to make decisions.
“I think we have such a big group, that’s more than the 23 that are going to the World Cup that are able to play on that stage. So of course that makes it hard for us to make decisions.
“But also with the starting line-up, we have more than 11 players that really could start in the team. So it’s not that someone is not good enough to start, it’s just the tactical choices we are going to make.
“We don’t have to make that now. We just really want to know what our opportunities are, what our options are. It’s actually really exciting.”
While Emily Ramsey, who was one of four goalkeepers in the squad, has departed due to an ankle issue, Wiegman looks set to have the rest of her group to choose from heading into the clash with a Belgium outfit that beat both Italy and South Korea 2-1.
I think the depth in the squad is growing, so what you see now is, it is really hard to make decisions
Tuesday’s pre-match press conference also saw Wiegman asked about diversity, with regard to the current England set-up, a talking point last summer when the Lionesses’ starting XI at the Euros featured no players from black, Asian or mixed heritage backgrounds.
Earlier this month the Football Association announced a new-look women’s and girls’ player pathway that it said was to “unearth the very best talent in England, while also making the game more diverse, accessible and inclusive”, with up to 70 Emerging Talent Centres being established across the country, catering for players aged eight to 16.
Wiegman was asked about that – as well as the lack of diversity in the England Under-23s team for Monday’s 4-1 win against Belgium – and how long she thought it would be before true representation was seen in the squads.
And she said: “You’re not going to change it overnight. Over the last weeks the FA, we launched I think an improved pathway which really is about of course performance, but also inclusivity, diversity and accessibility.
A new-look women’s and girls’ player pathway has been announced, to unearth the very best talent in England while also making the game more diverse, accessible and inclusive.
— The FA (@FA) February 9, 2023
“And hopefully in the future, and I don’t know how long that will take, we get of course very, very good players, but it represents more the diversity of our community.”
Defender Millie Bright, whose manager at Chelsea Emma Hayes last week described women’s football as “quite middle class” as she expressed concerns about opportunities for girls, said: “I think we have addressed it and changes are in place. But, again, it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight.
“I don’t really think you can put a timeframe on it, but I think it’s nice knowing changes have been made and that things are in place to allow it to be more diverse in the future.”