England boss Sarina Wiegman refused to reveal whether or not Keira Walsh’s knee injury was World Cup-ending as she fielded questions ahead of the final group game against China in Adelaide.
The Lionesses need just a point against the Women’s Asian Cup champions on Tuesday to clinch top spot in Group D, but will have to find a solution for key midfielder Walsh, who was ruled out of at least this clash with an undisclosed knee problem.
A scan on Saturday afternoon confirmed the 26-year-old had not hurt her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in England’s 1-0 victory over Denmark and will remain at their Terrigal base camp for further assessments, but that remains the extent of what Wiegman would disclose.
She said: “Keira is OK. We said that it’s not an ACL and we can’t give you more information. She will not be available tomorrow, and actually we are really only focused on the game tomorrow and after that we will continue what we do.”
Pressed further and asked if there was still hope Walsh could feature again in the World Cup, Wiegman reiterated: “We are just now focusing on China, she’s not available for China, let’s just keep it that way so far.
“I think we have a strong enough team, I think every game we want to be at our best and we know she is not available.
“We had a group of 23, so now we have a group of 22 and we have found solutions, so we’ll show that tomorrow.”
The England boss was more forthcoming when asked about a Chinese side the Lionesses have not faced since twice in 2015, when each team picked up a win, though she did come up against Tuesday’s opponents more recently as coach of her native Netherlands at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
She said: “I think it’s a different team than it was two years ago. It’s a different team, a different coach. They can play a direct style of play. I think they are very well-organised.”
Bayern Munich’s Georgia Stanway brought what felt like some much-welcomed levity to the press conference as the Walsh-shaped cloud loomed over the one-year anniversary of England’s triumph at the European Championship.
While it remains to be seen how Wiegman will line up against China, her immediate solution against Denmark was to bring in Manchester City’s Laura Coombs and drop Stanway back from her more familiar attacking position.
After joking that seeing Wiegman’s family – in England shirts, no less – was a reminder that her boss is “actually human”, Stanway said of Walsh: “It’s always difficult in that moment to see your team-mate, but my best friend as well, to go down in such pain.
“For the first second she was telling me to get off, and then within a few minutes we were laughing and I think the funny thing is, that’s the most embarrassing thing for her – the fact that she got stretchered off.
“She wasn’t necessarily thinking about the knee, she was more worried about the whole nation watching her and I think that’s what she was kind of a little more anxious about.
“But she’s in good spirits and we’ve heard from her today and she’s doing well and we just want to support her as much as we can. Like Sarina said, there’s 22 of us now that have got to step up and we’re just excited for tomorrow.
“I’ve played alongside Keira, who is the best teacher without knowing it. So going in tomorrow I think the big change, we just need to communicate in the middle of the pitch.
“The connection that we had between me, Keira and Tooney (Ella Toone) has been easy and it’s been synchronised, so tomorrow will pose a different challenge.”
Published: by Radio NewsHub