Sarina Wiegman makes England admission ahead of Nigeria

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Sarina Wiegman is looking to take England into the last eight of the World Cup (Image: PA)
Sarina Wiegman is looking to take England into the last eight of the World Cup (Image: PA)

Sarina Wiegman says Keira Walsh could be available for England's World Cup clash with Nigeria.

The Lionesses face Nigeria in the last 16 in Brisbane, and are widely thought of as tournament favourites after the early exits of the USA and Germany. But even if the European Champions' No.4 is available to play, Wiegman admitted she could stick with the formation employed against China, where Walsh was absent.

After injuring herself against Denmark there were fears Walsh's tournament could be over. But she has taken part in full training over recent days and travelled to Brisbane ahead of the last 16 clash with the Super Falcons. The England boss admitted her midfielder could play a part against Nigeria, but added that a judgement would be taken late in the day.

Wiegman said: "After the assessment (on Walsh's knee) when we knew what was going on, we said don’t make any assumptions and wait until a proper assessment has been done.

"That’s what we did – then we got the green light to get the rehab started. She’s doing well.

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"She started her rehab straight after we knew what was going on. She has been on the pitch, training today and now we will wait to see how she recovers and if she does well then, she will be available for tomorrow. I can only say it was not a ligament injury."

Although Walsh's return would be a huge boost to England, they produced their best display of the tournament so far without her. Against China the Lionesses switched shape with Katie Zelem coming into the side and a back-three installed.

A 6-1 win followed with Lauren James playing a starring role in the No.10 position. And although Wiegman would not be drawn on which system she will set-up with against Nigeria, she admitted it would be a tough choice.

"We have two options now – the way we have played and what we did against China, so we will take that into consideration," Wiegman added. "You will see tomorrow what we will do."

She also warned England cannot afford to be complacent when taking on a side ranked 40th in the world. Plenty of shocks have already taken place at the tournament, with Germany, Brazil and Canada departing in the group stage, before USA crashed out in the second round for the first time in their history on Sunday.

"What we have seen in this tournament is that nothing is easy," added Wiegman. "The growth of the game has shown in this tournament.

Sarina Wiegman makes England admission ahead of NigeriaKeira Walsh of England looks on during a training session at Central Coast Stadium on August 06, 2023 in Gosford, Australia. (Photo by Naomi Baker - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

"We've not had an easy game at all and that's what we expect [on Monday], that it will be very competitive and we need to be at our best. Everyone who plays us wants to beat us.

"The games have been very competitive. Nobody can be complacent because that's inappropriate. I think Nigeria have done really well in this tournament and were in a very hard group. We all saw they did very well.

"They are an athletic team, quick in the transition and also want to play. We are aware of their strengths. What we will try to do is exploit their weaknesses."

Jack Lacey-Hatton

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