Sarina Wiegman: Friday’s friendly against Austria ‘is really the start of our EUROs campaign’

As England prepare to face Austria at the Estadio Nuevo Mirador in Algeciras on Friday, Lionesses boss Sarina Wiegman and midfielder Georgia Stanway addressed the media from their base in Marbella.

A rampant six-goal victory over Scotland in December wasn’t enough to secure progression to the semifinals of the inaugural UEFA Women’s Nations League, thus ending England’s hopes of playing at the 2024 Olympics under the guise of Team GB.

‘We might get some more opportunities’ to call on U23s

With two friendly fixtures against Austria and Italy scheduled to fill the void in the calendar, Sarina Wiegman insists that ‘this is really the start of our EUROs campaign.’

‘This is the start of that, and it’s good having two friendlies because we can try out some things,’ she explained on Thursday morning.

‘We are also very close to the Under-23s [also training in Spain] so we can see them, we can be around them and can connect with them and see where the players are at,’ she told reporters.

Bristol City’s Naomi Layzell was the first member of the Under-23s squad to be called up to train alongside the senior Lionesses on Wednesday, and Wiegman expressed that ‘Naomi did well. Of course it is a big step but she did well, coped well and I think she enjoyed it too.’

‘That was good, and we might get some more opportunities this week to do more things like this.’

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‘We are in an environment where injury can happen’

Such is the quality of the England squad, many of Wiegman’s players find themselves embroiled in title races with their respective clubs – but the Dutchwoman insists that she has not had any requests from managers to limit playing time.

A plethora of high-profile injuries in recent weeks, including Chelsea’s Mia Fishel, have reignited concerns over playing two meaningless friendlies in the middle of a jam-packed season.

‘We are in contact all the time with the coaches,’ Wiegman explained, going on to add that ‘we update each other and we know how important the Women’s Super League is but also the German League for Georgia [Stanway] and the Spanish league for the players playing in Spain at the moment.’

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‘Of course, we want to take care of the players but we want to do lots of things. We do have the opportunity to try out things and manage minutes – and with a busy calendar that is something to be aware of.’

‘The issue of injuries is a bigger picture and it’s about the load on the players – we talk about that a lot, that we need to look at the calendar, and ask FIFA and UEFA to find a way to change things.’

‘We are in an environment where injury can happen because it’s a physical sport but if you can diminish the risk of injuries as much as possible, that’s what we try to do.’

Stanway: ‘Everything we do is to be successful on the pitch’

After this international break, the Lionesses will then turn their minds to qualifying for EURO2025 – which is set to be held in Switzerland next summer.

Qualifying fixtures are set to be held in April, June and July – with the club season set to conclude in May. Bayern Munich and England midfielder Georgia Stanway acknowledged that ‘it is a potential burnout, but we play football, we love football – football is our life. Everything we do is to be successul on the pitch.’

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‘When we didn’t qualify for the Olympics we thought it was the perfect opportunity to have the summer off, maybe travel a bit further. This is the first summer where I will maybe be able to have a bit of time off, with youth tournaments and senior tournaments in the past.’

‘Hopefully the best solution is giving us a good enough time of rest but also the most important thing is we want to qualify for EURO2025 – we will do anything to put ourselves in the best possible position to go to that tournament.’

The Lionesses take on Austria at the Estadio Nuevo Mirador on Friday, with kickoff scheduled for 19:45 GMT. The match will be shown live within the United Kingdom on ITV1. Sarina Wiegman’s side then face Italy on Tuesday, with that clash kicking off at 17:00 GMT and being broadcast on ITV4.