Sarina Wiegman Is On The Brink Of One Of The Great Managerial Achievements

England are in the World Cup final
13:00, 18 Aug 2023

As the full-time whistle blew in Sydney, England’s players celebrated wildly. The Lionesses had finally broken their semi-final duck to make it to their very first Women's World Cup final and the players took in the moment. They’d defeated the hosts in style, and finally found the cutting edge in the final third that had been lacking in the opening stages of this tournament. 

On the touchline, Sarina Wiegman breathed in the success of reaching her second World Cup final, and her fourth major tournament final in the last six years. It’s a remarkable period of dominance for one manager, who now has firmly established herself as one of the finest coaches on the planet - male or female. It's not surprise that she is being considered for the England men's job, when Gareth Southgate decides to walk away. 

As she got her players into a circle around her, she delivered another team talk, praising them for how they turned up and performed. She spoke to each Lioness individually, and unlike their opponents on Sunday, Spain, there’s a real bond between the players and the coaching staff. It all comes from Wiegman. 


It was a remarkable win given the atmosphere the game was played in. This was the most watched TV event in Australia ever, and Wiegman’s England went and spoiled the party. The feeling of deflation for the hosts was palpable, but the legacy they will have left behind is more powerful than they could possibly imagine. 

For Wiegman, getting her players to keep their cool in such a hostile environment is a serious achievement. She’s had the benefit of home advantage in both of her tournament wins so far, and she didn’t have to face previous World Cup hosts France when the Netherlands reached the final four years ago. It was arguably her toughest test on paper to date, and she passed it with flying colours. 

Reaching four finals in six years is an absolutely insane achievement. And this one feels particularly special given the turbulence she and her England squad have been through in the build-up to this World Cup. The Euros last year felt like a golden opportunity. England had a fully-fit squad capable of beating the best and, on home soil, they did just that. 


Travelling to Australia, the Lionesses were ravaged by injury. Golden Boot winner Beth Mead and captain Leah Williamson were arguably the two standout players at Euro 2022, but both suffered ACL injuries and would miss the World Cup. Ellen White had retired while Fran Kirby also missed out as Wiegman’s trustworthy XI began to fall apart. She needed to find solutions, and it's fair to say over the first two matches things didn’t quite click. 

She’d stuck with the 4-3-3 system that has served her so well over her career, yet without Mead and White, England couldn’t find their attacking spark. Two uninspiring 1-0 wins followed and, despite qualifying for the knockout stages, things needed to change. Wiegman took the decision to switch to a 3-5-2 and in doing so reinvigorated England’s chances of winning the tournament. 

Six goals against China followed and confidence was restored heading into the knockout stage. Then, a nightmare performance against Nigeria. Their star of this tournament, Lauren James, was sent off and England scraped through on penalties. It posed the Dutch boss with another dilemma. How would she cope without James, who had provided England’s incision in the final third? 

At 1-0 down to Colombia in the quarter-final, Lauren Hemp came to the fore. She bagged the equaliser before Alessia Russo scored the winner, and then the same duo combined in the semi-final to take the game beyond Australia.

Despite every knockback, Wiegman has found a way. It’s the sign of a truly great manager. One who doesn’t make excuses and just plays the cards she has been dealt. With James returning for the final, she has another big decision to make: whether to restore her to the starting XI or trust the players who have taken England to the final. You can bank on her getting that decision right as well. 

If she lifts the World Cup, it will go down as one of the great managerial achievements. When you add it to her two European titles with two different nations and a previous World Cup final appearance over the past six years, she goes down as one of the all-time greatest. And this might just be her crowning glory. 

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