Improved England Hit By Keira Walsh Exit As Dreaded Knee Trouble Strikes Again

The Lionesses lost their metronomic midfielder in a 1-0 win
11:24, 28 Jul 2023

Keira Walsh waved immediately to the bench, implored her well-meaning team-mates to “get off, get off” and puffed out her cheeks. Then, the clear and all-too familiar diagnosis came as England’s physios ran on to attend to her. “I’ve done my knee.”

A team heading into the Women’s World Cup without ACL-stricken Euro 2022-winning captain Leah Williamson and Beth Mead, the Player of the Tournament and top goalscorer 12 months ago, plus Fran Kirby after her own knee surgery, had been dealt another major blow. The dreaded ACL appears to have robbed Sarina Wiegman of another of her superstar players.

Walsh’s World Cup is likely over. If the injury is what it appears to be then most of her 2023-24 season with Barcelona is already a write-off too. Every new ACL problem brings further questions as to why greater studies haven’t been done on their prevalence in the women’s game.


But the immediate issue for the Lionesses is the gap left behind by Walsh for the remainder of this tournament. A Lauren James-inspired 1-0 Group D win over Denmark ought to have injected a feelgood factor into the England setup, yet the 35th-minute incident which led to their star central midfielder leaving the field on a stretcher massively coloured the atmosphere for the remainder of the game.

The first 25 minutes at the Sydney Football Stadium had made a big difference to expectations. Following a big dull dud of an opening performance against Haiti, England were sharp and incisive early on. James was always either finding space or making it for herself, never more so than in the sixth minute when she collected a pass, shifted the ball past a Denmark defender and curled a wonderful finish beyond keeper Lene Christensen into the far corner.


Making her first start in a major tournament, James was electric in the opening quarter and Denmark simply couldn’t handle her. She appeared set to be the major story of the evening thanks to her dazzling display, but if her positivity and panache had made England fans feel two feet taller, the sight of Walsh’s early exit soon had supporters wondering how their side might negotiate the remainder of the World Cup without another member of their triumphant starting XI at Euro 2022.

The retirement of Ellen White was one thing, but losing four of those national heroes through injury is surely more than a serious contender can deal with. Beating a team like Denmark to all-but qualify for the round of 16 should give teams renewed confidence in a tournament such as this, but Wiegman’s squad has just netted its first goal in open play in five matches and has seen goalkeeper Mary Earps tested more often in the opening two games than would be considered ideal. She was also left beaten by Amalie Vangsgaard's header which cannoned off the post with three minutes remaining as England became panicky and ragged.

Chuck in the loss of Walsh and this is fast becoming an attempt to compete against all the odds rather than a concerted effort to turn continental glory into global success.


*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject to Change

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