‘It’s over, it’s over’: Keira Walsh’s Women’s World Cup in jeopardy after sustaining knee injury vs Denmark

Keira Walsh - Keira Walsh’s Women’s World Cup in jeopardy after sustaining knee injury vs Denmark

Keira Walsh was taken off on a stretcher after injuring her knee just before half-time – Getty Images/Matt King

“It’s over, it’s over…” were the four words that came out of a distraught Keira Walsh as she was taken off the pitch on a stretcher during the group game with Denmark on Friday and, with it, left England’s hopes of winning the Women’s World Cup hanging by the slenderest of threads too.

It could well be over, this could well be the moment we look back at and say that is when the Lionesses’ chances of becoming world champions ended. Those words, uttered to a concerned-looking Lucy Bronze, will haunt this England side.

We do not know for sure if it is over for Walsh yet, but as Beth Mead – her World Cup ended before it had begun by an ACL injury – tweeted it does not look good, it looks heartbreaking. We do not know for sure if this World Cup campaign is going to be doomed, but that is the fear, that is the size of the threat. After so much excitement, hope and expectation, it could all be over.

England have lots of talented players but none of them are able to do what Walsh does. She is the most expensive women’s player in the world for a reason. She is the link between defence and attack, the heartbeat of the team. She is the player England could not afford to lose. She is also the player who has played more minutes than any other since they won the Euros last summer in an England shirt. She was undroppable, she was often untouchable on the pitch. And now, in all likelihood she is gone from this tournament and will not play again for many months.

Walsh knew immediately she was in trouble, stretching to win back the ball after another sloppy England pass had been picked off. Her studs caught in the turf, the knee twisted as her body weight fell the other way. She immediately signalled to the bench to say she needed to come off, running a hand across her throat in a slitting gesture. She said: “I’ve done my knee.”

It was only when the initial shock and pain had subsided that the emotion took over. She was in agony as the physios checked over the injured knee, screaming out in pain more than once. By the time the stretcher was called for, the enormity of what had happened was beginning to sink in. There were tears tumbling down her cheeks, her face flushed, her head rising and falling back again. It was horrible to watch, an athlete’s dreams appeared to have been snatched away from her with one over extended knee, trying to win the ball back for her team. That is her job, but this was cruel.

Sarina Wiegman paced like an agitated cat on the touchline, her hand clasped to her mouth, pinching her lips hard. She was trying to work out the contingency plan, how to make sure England held on to their 1-0 lead over Denmark, but her mind will also have been racing. How will England cope without their best player? How can they win the World Cup without the player that makes them tick, the player who glues everything together in the centre of midfield?

Laura Coombs came off the bench, the Manchester City veteran had the first opportunity to fill those huge boots. The rest of the rescue plan will have to wait.

The honest truth, at this moment in time, is that Wiegman does not know how to replace Walsh or even if she can find a player who can do the same job. None of us know. It looks like it is over for Walsh. The fourth member of last year’s European Championship-winning team – following Leah Williamson, Mead and Fran Kirby – to depart to a serious injury in the space of a few months.

It is not over yet. We do not know how serious it is, but the pain she was in and the emotion that poured out of her, suggests it is over for her. England are going to have to adapt and fast.

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