‘Concerned’ Sarina Wiegman sweating on fitness of England midfielder Keira Walsh

England boss Sarina Wiegman remains “concerned” about injured Keira Walsh after the midfielder was stretchered off in the Lionesses’ 1-0 World Cup Group D victory over Denmark in Sydney.

Walsh, a 2023 Champions League winner with Barcelona, started every game of England’s triumphant Euro 2022 campaign and could clearly be seen telling the team’s medical staff “I’ve done my knee” after sliding to collect the ball late in the first half.

The worrying scene dampened the elated atmosphere that followed Lauren James’ sixth-minute opener, a maiden World Cup goal for the 21-year-old Chelsea forward.

Wiegman said: “Of course I’m concerned because she couldn’t walk off the pitch, but we don’t know yet, so we can’t take any assumptions. Let’s just wait until we really have a diagnosis and then we can tell you.

England's bench

Injured midfielder Keira Walsh, left, watched the second half from the bench

“You saw what we did, (Georgia) Stanway dropped back and Laura (Coombs) came in. Yes, of course we had to find our feet a little bit.

“You saw different stages. We really dominated the first half. Then Keira went out and we had to adapt to the situation.

“In the second half, Denmark also had such a direct style of play. We also showed we can fight. The team showed real resilience. We kept it to 1-0 so it was really good and I’m really proud of the team.”

Walsh later appeared on crutches, with ex-England striker-turned-pundit Ellen White telling the BBC: “(At the 2022 Euros) Everything came through Keira. There wasn’t a plan B.

“I dreaded to think of the idea of us ever losing her because she was one of our best players. Beth Mead was scoring all the goals but all of our play came through Keira. She was the key cog, everything moved through her.

“I just don’t know who England are going to have now in that six (defensive midfield position), or even potential double six, role.”

Asked about White’s comments, Wiegman simply restated: “You saw the plan B. Georgia Stanway drops back and Laura Coombs comes in.”

An update on Walsh is not expected until Saturday at the earliest.

Wiegman fielded the same starting XI for every match of the Euros, but made two changes for the world number-four Lionesses’ second World Cup encounter against 13th-ranked Denmark.

James replaced Lauren Hemp on the left wing while Rachel Daly returned to the familiar left-back role she occupied for every match of the European Championship, and Alex Greenwood shifted to centre-back.

Wiegman’s decisions were almost instantly justified when Daly slipped the ball to James, who curled past Denmark goalkeeper Lene Christensen for what ultimately proved enough to settle the result after Amalie Vangsgaard’s header for a last-gasp equaliser clipped the post.

Wiegman likes to stress football is a full-squad endeavour, but did say of James, younger sister of fellow England international Reece James: “She has done really well but it is a team effort too and we were very careful with her.

“She is a very young, talented player. And yes, we were happy with the performance and she was ready today, so that was really good.

“Of course the approach of this game, we know that Denmark was dropping a little deeper, that they have a very tight, defensive block and we really thought we needed to play it in the pockets.

“That’s where she came a lot together also with Stanway and (Ella) Toone, and that worked really well. They really struggled with that, and yes, she made indeed a very nice goal.”

Denmark boss Lars Sondergaard extended his condolences to Walsh, and felt that while her absence perhaps led to a second-half surge from his side as England adjusted, the threat from players like James highlights how difficult it is to come up against the Lionesses.

He said: “After Keira Walsh, that’s always if you have to close one down, there’s another player. I think England has such a good team, they have always players that if you give too much notice on one player, other players will come up.”

You might also like...