Rachel Daly confident England can cope without injured Keira Walsh against China

England veteran Rachel Daly is confident the Lionesses have the depth to cope without injured midfielder Keira Walsh when their World Cup campaign resumes on Tuesday in Adelaide.

The European champions need just a point in their final group match against China to secure top spot in Group D at Hindmarsh Stadium and set up a last-16 meeting with one of Nigeria, Canada or Australia in Brisbane.

Walsh will miss out after suffering a knee injury in Friday’s 1-0 victory over Denmark, but boss Sarina Wiegman was given an encouraging update when a scan revealed the problem was not to the 26-year-old’s anterior cruciate ligament.

England v Denmark – FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 – Group D – Sydney Football Stadium

Keira Walsh was injured against Denmark on Friday (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Daly said: “Obviously it was heartbreaking. You always fear the worst in that situations like I’m sure you guys did. As a team-mate, as a friend, it’s even harder.

“She’s obviously such a pivotal part of our team on and off the pitch, so it was tough. It’s not nice to see anyone get injured. But a sigh of relief I suppose when it wasn’t the dreaded three-letter word (ACL) and we’re all just here to support her and get her through whatever she needs.

“It’s obviously difficult losing a player of her ability and the quality that she brings, and like I said off the pitch she’s a vital part of the team as well so it’s tough.

“[We have] a 23-player squad that can all be capable of stepping up in these moments. And we know that as a team, the players believe in that. The staff believe in that. And I hope that everybody else on the outside believes that. And yes, it’s sad to see someone not be able to play, but it’s a fantastic opportunity for somebody else to step up.

“It’s a team game and we have to get on with it and ultimately to get the job done for Keira as well. I think everyone’s just in better sprits, obviously going into the game knowing that we need to get the job done.

“I think what you saw on Friday was the resilience side that we have. It was obviously so difficult losing her, but we’ve got players to step into that role. You know, no one’s going to replace somebody else. Everyone brings something different to the squad, their own unique ability.”

Walsh, who was carried off on a stretcher in the first half of the Denmark clash and later appeared on crutches, will remain at the team’s Terrigal base in New South Wales to undergo medical assessments.

Monday also marks the one-year anniversary of the historic Wembley final that saw England lift their first major trophy at Euro 2022.

Of that victorious Lionesses squad, Ellen White and Jill Scott have since retired, while Leah Williamson, Fran Kirby and Beth Mead were ruled out of this summer’s World Cup through injury.

Losing Walsh, then, also guarantees that more than half of Wiegman’s starting XI to face China on Tuesday will be different from her unchanged line-up last summer.

England v Germany – UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 – Final – Wembley Stadium

England’s line-up against China could look very different to the one that won Euro 2022 last summer (Jonathan Brady/PA)

So while Daly treasures that trophy and the uplift in attention paid to the Women’s Super League, she was – like many of those remaining from that triumph – eager to shift the focus to the present as England push for a first Women’s World Cup title.

The 31-year-old added: “I think the Lionesses obviously have had the target on our back a little bit, but you know, we always say pressure is the privilege and we’ve earned that, right?

“So things have changed in that sense. But yeah, I don’t think any internally, the players haven’t changed whatsoever. We’re all just the same old people that we were before. Obviously things around us change, getting recognised a little bit more, stuff like that. But yeah, I don’t think a whole lot has changed.

“And obviously, it’s not something that we particularly focus on is the Euros because a lot of the group that are with us now weren’t at the Euros, so it’s great to have that in the bag but this is a new tournament and that’s what we’re focusing on now.”

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