Women's World Cup Final: Injuries Be Damned, This Is An England Team Built To Win

Sarina Wiegman has developed a belief within the whole squad
08:00, 17 Aug 2023

Less than a month ago all the talk was about the players who weren’t arriving in Australia as part of England’s effort to win the Women’s World Cup. Names such as Beth Mead, Fran Kirby and captain Leah Williamson were being repeated over and over, with their absences cited as the reason not to get too carried away about the Lionesses’ chances.

Maybe it was an English thing. We’ve been burnt too many times before. Injuries have been the major factor in the mood of the nation heading into finals tournaments all too often, with the men’s team crossing its fingers over the fitness of David Beckham in 2002, Wayne Rooney in 2006 and Steven Gerrard in 2010, among others. The sagas were also used as excuses when the inevitable early exit followed.

But the resignation surrounding the lack of three of England’s key players failed to take into account the impact of those who remained. Sure, they were struggling for goals in the warm-ups which preceded their campaign, but Sarina Wiegman’s side were basically being talked about as an outside shot at best.


On Sunday, they will play in their first Women’s World Cup final, just 13 months on from the Euro 2022 success which transformed beyond recognition the perception of females in football in this country. That victory on home soil was built on far more than the performances of three stars, however well Mead, Kirby and Williamson played.

What we have seen over the past six games from England is a doggedness and an ability to get over the line when not playing well – against Haiti, Denmark and Nigeria – a battling nature when coming from behind – versus Colombia – and a knack of delivering top-quality displays at times when people are doubting them most, as evidence against China and most recently in Tuesday’s 3-1 semi-final win over Australia.

Lauren James announced herself as a new world star with her performances against Denmark and China before blotting her copybook with her stamp on Michelle Alozie against Nigeria which looked set to rule her out of the remainder of the tournament. That she is free to return for Sunday’s final against Spain only improves England’s chances. She ought to head into that game – if selected – with a new focus and maturity off the back of the first major personal setback in her career.


Alessia Russo has stepped up at a time when her place as a starter was facing the most intense of spotlights, netting the winner in the quarter-final and the clincher in the last four. Ella Toone, dropped early on in the tournament and seen as the likely odd-one-out once James returned, delivered a sensational goal in an excellent showing against Australia to leave her head coach with a big decision to make before Sunday. Meanwhile, Lauren Hemp has switched positions from an orthodox wing position to partner Russo and quietly go about being one of the most dangerous players in the competition.

At the back, Jess Carter’s phenomenal showings have made a success of a 3-4-1-2 formation which Sarina Wiegman turned to after two games following the side’s sluggish start to the tournament. Alongside her Millie Bright has shaken off injury concerns to be a colossus once more, and Alex Greenwood might just be England’s Player of the World Cup thus far.

There was also the Keira Walsh episode which seemed set to rob the team of their key central midfielder, only for her to return from a knee injury after missing only one game. Make no bones about it, this England journey has been about the whole squad, not just a starting XI.

Just as last summer’s triumph owed much to contributions off the bench from the likes of Alessia Russo, Ella Toone and Chloe Kelly even at a time when Wiegman wasn’t for altering the starters, the run to the final in Australia has been built on the impact of the likes of Kelly, Carter, Katie Zelem and Beth England just as much as the more celebrated starters.

And that’s why England are in Sunday’s final despite all the setbacks. That’s why they are favourites to beat Spain. And also why this feels different to all those times their male counterparts had us believing but ultimately fell short. This wonderful era to be an England fan comes on the back of a squad bursting with ability, resilience, belief, and a desire to play their part whenever and however that becomes a possibility.


*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject to Change

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