·31 May 2023
·31 May 2023
Beth Mead has missed out on England’s World Cup squad after running out of time in her recovery from an anterior cruciate ligament injury but Millie Bright and Lucy Bronze have both been selected in Sarina Wiegman’s 23-player group despite recent fitness concerns.
Bethany England has been rewarded with a recall after her excellent form since joining Tottenham Hotspur, where the striker scored 12 goals in as many Women’s Super League appearances, but among the surprise omissions was Manchester United defender Maya Le Tissier – who has been named on the standby list.
Mead, who won the golden boot and was named player of the tournament as England claimed the Euros on home soil last summer, has been out since November, and the tournament in Australia and New Zealand has come too soon for the forward with England’s opening game against Haiti less than eight weeks away.
Wiegman wanted to give Mead every chance of making the World Cup and although the Arsenal star returned to light training in recent weeks, the Lionesses manager was not prepared to take a risk on her fitness with England well-stocked in attacking positions.
“From an early stage we said we were not willing to take the risk to push her and risk injuring her again,” Wiegman said as England’s squad was announced. “We wanted to be smart and not to be naive.”
With captain Leah Williamson and Euros winner Fran Kirby already ruled out of the World Cup, the Lionesses have been boosted by the availability of experienced defenders Bright and Bronze. Wiegman confirmed that Bright, the Chelsea centre-back, will captain England in Williamson’s absence.
Both players missed the end of the season after undergoing knee surgeries but Barcelona right-back Bronze has returned to full training while Wiegman said Bright is expected to be fit by the start of England’s World Cup camp next month.
Aston Villa midfielder Jordan Nobbs will bring experience after keeping her place in the squad while Manchester United captain Katie Zelem has been recalled after missing out on April’s matches against Brazil and Australia. Manchester City midfielder Laura Coombs is also included.
Wiegman has not offered places to former England captain Steph Houghton, who had been tipped for a spot after Williamson’s injury, or the experienced forward Nikita Parris – despite her good form for Manchester United over the final weeks of the season.
But the biggest surprise was undoubtedly Le Tissier, who had an excellent season in defence for United as they reached the FA Cup final and pushed Chelsea to the final weekend in the title race. The 21-year-old will travel to Australia along with the Manchester City midfielder Jess Park, also 21, who was also named on the standby list.
“She was really close,” Wiegman said on Le Tissier. “That was a hard call. All the defenders we had to think about. We also see her a little bit more as a right full-back, she plays for her club as centre-back.”
Despite the absence of Williamson and Kirby, Wiegman was able to name 16 of the players who were in England’s Euros-winning squad last summer, while Lauren James, Zelem, Niamh Charles, Coombs, Esme Morgan and Katie Robinson will be playing at their first major tournament.
Wiegman said England’s performances since making the decision to leave Chelsea for Tottenham in January were the reason for her inclusion. England was left out of four squads in a row following the Euros but her goals to keep Spurs up left Wiegman with no other choice.
“She was at Chelsea and didn’t get the minutes – we hardly saw her play,” Wiegman said. “She started playing in a hard situation at Tottenham. We were impressed with how well she played, and the resilience.”
England is a boost to Wiegman’s attacking options, which is the area in which the European champions are strongest coming into the World Cup. James, Chloe Kelly and Lauren Hemp will compete for places on the wings while Wiegman has another selection headache up front with Rachel Daly, who won the WSL’s golden boot with 22 goals for Aston Villa this season, and Manchester United’s Alessia Russo to choose from.
In midfield, Keira Walsh, Ella Toone and Georgia Stanway will expect to start while Mary Earps comes into the World Cup as arguably the best goalkeeper in the world after winning the Fifa Best award last season.
Midfielders: Laura Coombs (Manchester City), Jordan Nobbs (Aston Villa), Georgia Stanway (Bayern Munich), Ella Toone (Manchester United), Keira Walsh (Barcelona), Katie Zelem (Manchester United)
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