England handed Women's World Cup boost as "masterful" Sarina Wiegman hailed

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England handed Women's World Cup boost as "masterful" Sarina Wiegman hailed


Keira Walsh is back among the Lionesses - but is highly unlikely to play a part against Nigeria.

The Barcelona midfielder stepped up her recovery as the squad trained in Terrigal. It was the first time she had been back at the training venue since jarring her knee against Denmark eight days ago.

Walsh, whose injury has only been described as ‘not being an ACL’ (anterior cruciate ligament) problem by the Football Association, has been undertaking her own tailored programme. She trained alone in the specially-constructed gym behind the main stand as the Lionesses were put through their paces by Sarina Wiegman’s backroom staff at the Central Coast Mariners’ Stadium.

Meanwhile World Cup-winning coach Jill Ellis has saluted Wiegman’s tactics as ‘masterful.’

The British-born boss, who led the United States to glory in France four years ago, was gushing in praise for the Lionesses’ leader after a change in England’s approach paid instant dividends.

Chelsea winners and losers from record transfer window as more changes to come eideziqkeiqhhinvChelsea winners and losers from record transfer window as more changes to come

Wiegman pushed Lauren James into a more central role and was rewarded with six goals as China were dispatched with the minimum of fuss. Speaking at a briefing from FIFA’s technical group, Ellis said: “We’re seeing more diversity in team set-ups.

“We are getting coaches who are more flexible. Going into 2019, I told my staff we had to be like that. If you’re down with 10 minutes left in the game it pains me to watch teams continually doing what they do. For example, why are they not throwing on another striker?

“I think what coaches are now recognising is what they can exploit and take advantage of their opponents. I think it was a masterful move from England against China and I think we will see more of that. The game is fluid and is never a fixed shape. It’s a sign of the times that coaches who are more flexible will be more successful.

“Gone are the days when you can just stick with what you’ve been doing.”

England handed Women's World Cup boost as "masterful" Sarina Wiegman hailedLauren James of England interacts with Sarina Wiegman, Manager of England

Lucy Bronze echoed Ellis’s comments and said that England may have other tactical cards up their sleeve.

The Barcelona star said: “We’ve practise so many different things in training. Sarina wanted everyone to be ready to go into the team. Things can change. People can go anywhere, so we have all the positions double-covered.

“It gives the opposition real headaches, we’re a close and competitive group. We just want to keep going. What the World Cup has shown so far is that it is really competitive. It’s been seen in the results. It’s been good for the game because it shows the smaller nations are getting better.”

That was borne out by two-time champions Germany suffering a shock exit in the group stages for the first time - all this coming 24 hours after Jamaica stunned Brazil by securing a draw that saw them progress at the expense of the Yellow Canaries.

England’s half of the draw has opened up with the Lionesses not scheduled to meet any team ranked better than 25th in FIFA’s rankings until the semi-final stage.

Goalkeeper Mary Earps says the Lionesses are now ‘in a good spot’ as the preparations continued ahead of the last 16 knockout game against Nigeria in Brisbane on Monday morning.

Earps reacts to FIFA Best nomination and on season so far with Man UtdEarps reacts to FIFA Best nomination and on season so far with Man Utd

She said: “The proof of what we’ve been doing is in the pudding - what happens come game day - and we’ve won three out of three. I know results haven’t been as people wanted. But we’re playing at a World Cup - this is the creme de la creme - it’s the pinnacle.

“I thnk we know what we’re capable of.

“Our qualities have shown through in every month and year that we have been playing together. I think we’re in a good spot.”

Neil Moxley

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