Sarina Wiegman: Leah Williamson is ‘in a good place’ and in contention for Sweden match

It has been a tumultuous few months for the Lionesses. Defeat to Spain in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final was followed by elimination from the inaugural UEFA Women’s Nations League just months later – but Sarina Wiegman’s side have a chance to redeem themselves now, as qualifying commences ahead of EURO2025.

The last edition of the UEFA Women’s Nations League offered a chance to progress to the 2024 Olympics, and while the Lionesses missed out on a trip to France this summer, they’ll be keen to finish in the top half of their group this time around and progress directly to next year’s tournament in Switzerland.

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Speaking ahead of Friday’s opening match against Sweden at Wembley Stadium, Sarina Wiegman offered updates on squad fitness, the mentality within the camp and her thoughts on the touchline debate between Jonas Eidevall and Emma Hayes that became a focal talking point of the Conti Cup Final.

Leah Williamson sustained a knock in the first half of Arsenal’s win over Chelsea at Molineux last weekend, and was seen training individually on Tuesday – sparking doubts over her inclusion in the squad for the Sweden clash.

On Thursday morning, Wiegman explained that ‘we needed to manage [Leah Williamson] a little bit. She had a full training session yesterday, she’ll be on the pitch today so that looks really good. She’s still building, but she’s in a good place and ready if she comes through today, of course.’

It’s not all good news in terms of injuries though. Manchester City’s Khiara Keating has departed camp, with Wiegman citing ‘some discomfort in her knee’ as the reason for her early exit.

‘We tried to manage that but it’s not good enough,’ she continued. ‘We’re not going to take any risks, so she left and Kayla Rendell’s in.’

Rendell has risen to prominence in the Barclays Women’s Championship, starring for Southampton as Marieanne Spacey-Cale’s side continue their push for promotion to the top flight. She has featured for England throughout various age categories, including the U23s.

England faced Sweden on the path to their stunning victory at the delayed European Championships, with Alessia Russo stealing the limelight after netting a sensational backheeled goal that has become akin to folklore within the women’s game.

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Wiegman admitted that the match, and Russo’s goal, ‘was a great moment but we’ll move on. Lots of things happened in between that period and now, and we’re in a new situation now. Of course we know Sweden very well, they know us very well too so we’re preparing what we’ve seen lately from them.’

The Lionesses have a point to prove after their disappointing end to 2023, and Wiegman assured reporters – and fans – that ‘since the moment in December that we knew we didn’t qualify, which was hard anyways with only two teams qualifying, we wanted to reset and get ready for the first game which is now Sweden tomorrow.’

‘We’ve known that since the draw on the 5th March, we’ve been getting into Sweden but also into Ireland because you don’t prepare for that in just two days. We used the camp in February to have a reset moment.’ England cruised to victories against Austria and Italy in Algeciras, with Tottenham’s Grace Clinton netting on her debut.

Wiegman was also asked to comment on the touchline debate that marred Arsenal’s Conti Cup victory, with the Dutchwoman providing a rather diplomatic answer. Emma Hayes accused Jonas Eidevall of ‘male aggression’ on the touchline, and the FA have opted not to take further action against the Chelsea boss, who was seen shoving her managerial counterpart post-match.

‘I’m not in that situation, so I really don’t want to comment on that one day before we go to the most important game in a couple of months for us,’ she offered.