Sarina Wiegman ready to make England changes for Denmark World Cup clash

Sarina Wiegman has said she is not afraid to make changes for England’s World Cup game against Denmark on Friday. The manager used the same starting XI throughout last year’s triumphant Euros campaign but is weighing up the best way to bring more ruthlessness to her team.

“I want to make changes,” the manager said. “What we do is approach every game and then when we get ready to prepare. First of all we see who is fit and available and then we make the decisions to what we need to start with and then we decide whether we’re going to start with the same XI or maybe make some changes.”

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Wiegman, who said she had a fully fit squad, tends to avoid alterations. As manager of the Netherlands she made only two changes during their run to the 2019 World Cup final and three at the 2017 Euros, which her team won. Yet, with the most recent Euros pushed back a year by Covid-19, she has had fewer games to prepare England for the World Cup.

England struggled to convert their chances against Haiti in the opening game, reliant on a Georgia Stanway penalty to earn victory. They will qualify for the last 16 if they beat Denmark and China fail to defeat Haiti.

“We talked about ruthlessness and we also said: ‘What’s ruthlessness?’” Wiegman said. “We talked about coming into the final third, the crosses being right, coming into the box at the right time, and we worked on that. Today [in training] looked really good actually.”

Lucy Bronze said performances matter but results matter more. “You could go to the World Cup and win it by winning 1-0 all the time or drawing and winning on penalties,” she said. “Performances mean a lot to us but results are important too. It’s not always about scoring seven goals.”

England’s manager, Sarina Wiegman, on the pitch at the Sydney Football Stadium with her players.

England’s manager, Sarina Wiegman, on the pitch at the Sydney Football Stadium with her players. Photograph: Zac Goodwin/PA

Denmark’s manager, Lars Søndergaard, described his team as underdogs for the game at the Sydney Football Stadium. “You need to perform well against a superpower such as England,” he said. “That’s easier said than done but as Pernille [Harder] said, there’s a World Cup every four years, you’re getting many of these opportunities in your career, right? So, it would be a mortal sin not to enjoy it.”

Wiegman said she agreed with his estimation of her team being a superpower and his the underdogs. “But of course he wants to put us in that position,” she said. “We’re always the team to beat, I’ve never experienced anything else. I think tomorrow we will have more of the ball but we’ll see how it goes.”

Stopping Harder, the influential forward who joined Bayern Munich from Chelsea at the end of the season, will be critical for England. “She has quality on the ball that not many others possess,” Bronze said. “In the past few years, she’s been one of the best players in the world, not just at Chelsea but at Wolfsburg and Denmark, who did well in the Euros in 2017. She’s a top player but we have lots of them in the England team as well.”

Harder began Denmark’s 1-0 win against China as a No 9 before shifting into her preferred No 10 role, where she says she can be more involved. “It’s not a matter of where Pernille is best, it’s a matter of where Pernille is best for the team,” said Søndergaard. “Where she plays, it can vary depending on the opponent.”

England’s defensive midfielder Keira Walsh will be an important part of limiting Harder’s time on the ball.

“She is difficult to play against,” Walsh said. “She maybe plays slightly different for Denmark than she does for Chelsea. She’s constantly on the move and picking up spaces. As a holding midfielder you don’t always want to go in because she’s always questioning whether you should hold. She’s a top player, very composed in and around the box and she’s the type of player you want to be playing against.”

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