Keira Walsh could return for last-16 clash with Nigeria – Sarina Wiegman



Posted Sunday, August 06, 2023 by PA

Keira Walsh could return for last-16 clash with Nigeria – Sarina Wiegman

Keira Walsh could make a stunning return for England’s last-16 World Cup clash against Nigeria.

Walsh was carried off on a stretcher late in the first half of the Lionesses’ 28 July victory over Denmark, with fears that the influential midfielder’s tournament could be over, but scans revealed her knee injury was not as serious as first suspected.

The 26-year-old took another step forward in her recovery when she joined her team-mates in training at the Central Coast Stadium on the eve of their last-16 showdown, before England flew to Brisbane ahead of the knockout encounter.

England boss Sarina Wiegman said: “She is doing well. She started her rehab straight after we knew what was going on.

“She has been on the pitch, she has been training today. Now we will wait until [we see] how she recovers from that training session and if she does well then she is available tomorrow.”

The Dutch boss, who led the Netherlands to the World Cup final four years ago in France, would not reveal specifically what injury Walsh had sustained, but did add: “I can only say that there wasn’t a ligament injury.

“Of course that moment in that game against Denmark, that was a very hard moment, but after the assessments and we knew what was going on we also said don’t take any assumptions.

“Just wait until a proper assessment has been done. That’s what we did and then we got the green light to just get her rehab started.

“Everybody is going on about injuries all the time, but the day after we noticed things were much better.”

Keira Walsh could return for last-16 clash with Nigeria – Sarina Wiegman
There were fears that Walsh’s tournament could be over (Zac Goodwin/PA)

The moment Walsh was stretchered off – grimacing, telling team staff “I’ve done my knee” and fending off help from team-mates – England fans began to fear that she was the most recent victim of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) crisis facing women’s football.

European champions Leah Williamson and Beth Mead were ruled out with that injury ahead of this tournament, while Fran Kirby also underwent surgery for a separate knee issue.

Wiegman stuck to the Lionesses’ standard 4-3-3 formation in the immediate aftermath of Walsh’s injury and brought in Manchester City’s Laura Coombs for the remainder of the 1-0 Denmark victory, but against China handed Manchester United captain Katie Zelem her first England start and switched to a 3-5-2, which paid off with a thumping 6-1 victory.

Wiegman added: “We have two options now. The way we played and what we did against China, we have taken that into consideration.”

Nigeria head coach Randy Waldrum is confident in his plan for however England line up, with or without Walsh.

Keira Walsh could return for last-16 clash with Nigeria – Sarina Wiegman
Katie Zelem seized her chance against China (Zac Goodwin/PA)

He said: “Obviously, she’s a key player in the midfield for them. Kind of like we had to do for Australia and Sam Kerr, we had to prepare with and without, we have to do the same.

“England has so many weapons. All of those players are playing all over the world in high profile settings. There are more that can do damage to us than just her. They’ve given us a lot of challenges to prepare for and it will just be another one if she comes in.

“We have to prepare for both, as a coach I would expect her to go with a back three because they played ever so well like that.

“We also know they’re going to adapt to how they can best play against us so we have to prepare for both situations, that’s what makes the job challenging because we don’t have a lot of time. We’ve tried this week to prepare for both and we’ll see which way they come out.

“[Sarina Wiegman] has done a fantastic job with England, since she took over you can see the progression of the team.

“When I look at a coach and try to analyse, if I don’t know them personally, you look at the team and tell if they have an idea. In their organisation, they look like they have a plan [and] a way they want to play.”

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