Skip to content

The key decisions facing Sarina Wiegman

Sarina Wiegman is facing several conundrums as she plans to name the World Cup squad on Wednesday - Getty Images/Naomi Baker

Sarina Wiegman is facing several conundrums as she plans to name the World Cup squad on Wednesday – Getty Images/Naomi Baker

Sarina Wiegman will name her 23-player squad for this summer’s Women’s World Cup at 2pm on Wednesday – 50 days before the tournament gets underway in Australia and New Zealand.

The Lionesses head coach will make her announcement at Boldmere St. Michaels FC, a 140-year-old community club in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham, with Wiegman hoping to shine a light on the grass-roots game. Before then, the back-to-back European Championship-winning coach has some tricky decisions to make.

Strikers: Will Bethany England get a recall?

Amongst the conundrums facing Wiegman, who usually deploys a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-2-1 system – is whether to take three central strikers to this tournament or just two out-and-out No 9s. The latter is what she did for April’s friendlies against Brazil and Australia, when only Alessia Russo and Rachel Daly were called up.

There is widespread clamoring for Bethany England to be selected after she scored 12 goals in 12 Women’s Super League games following her January move to Tottenham Hotspur from Chelsea. However, she has not played for her country since September and was an unused substitute throughout the entirety of last summer’s Euros.

Houston Dash’s Ebony Salmon is also in contention and could offer something different up front, but she has been given just 62 minutes of international football across three substitute appearances since Wiegman took charge in 2021.

Bethany England - Getty Images

Bethany England – Getty Images

Wingers: Will Wiegman take a risk on Beth Mead?

Arsenal’s Beth Mead remains highly doubtful for the World Cup having not played since rupturing an anterior cruciate ligament in late November. Mead has said she is “ahead of schedule” in her recovery, but Wiegman will have to decide whether to gamble on the Euros Golden Boot winner’s readiness for this tournament.

If Mead is not picked, Brighton youngster Katie Robinson and Manchester United’s in-form, more-experienced player Nikita Parris look like the two players are battling it out for the fourth winger spot in the squad. Lauren Hemp, Chloe Kelly and Lauren James feel certain to be on the plane.

Goalkeepers: Who will get the nod as third choice?

Mary Earps is sure of her spot in the squad, along with Manchester City’s Ellie Roebuck, but with Sandy MacIver now ruled out of the World Cup, Wiegman needs to choose a third-choice shot-stopper.

It is anticipated that this will be a straight choice between Aston Villa’s Hannah Hampton and Emily Ramsey, who has been on loan at Everton from Manchester United.

Center-backs: Who will replace Leah Williamson in the squad?

England suffered a crushing blow in April when captain Leah Williamson was ruled out for the World Cup with an ACL injury. As well as losing their talismanic leader, they lose one of the game’s best ball-playing center-halves.

Chelsea’s Millie Bright is also currently sidelined with a shorter-term knee problem, although it is expected that she will be named in Wiegman’s squad on Wednesday. Alex Greenwood and Jess Carter – both of whom can play at left-back or centre-back – appear certain to be included, but there are other centre-back spots up for grabs.

Manchester United’s Maya Le Tissier has been one of the stars of the WSL season and has surely earned a call-up, having been an integral part of the side with the strongest defensive record in the league this term.

Arsenal’s Lotte Wubben-Moy, Manchester City’s Esme Morgan and uncapped West Ham defender Lucy Parker will all be part of the conversation too, but could Wiegman opt for a high-profile, experienced name and surprise everyone by recalling former England skipper Steph Houghton?

The 121-times-capped Manchester City center-back, aged 35, has not played for her country since 2021 and her international career has appeared over this term, but her major-tournament experience could count in her favor.

Steph Houghton has not played for England since 2021 but would be an experienced answer to the problems facing Wiegman in defense - Getty Images/Richard Heathcote

Steph Houghton has not played for England since 2021 but would be an experienced answer to the problems facing Wiegman in defense – Getty Images/Richard Heathcote

Left-back: Do England need cover move?

With Greenwood likely to be deployed as a left-sided center-half in the starting XI in July, instead of Williamson, it leaves Wiegman with food for thought regarding the left-back spot, where Jess Carter started in England’s most recent game.

Rachel Daly started every game of last summer’s Euros at left-back but her WSL Golden Boot-winning exploits for Aston Villa playing up front this season means Wiegman could face a backlash from some supporters if she decides to switch Daly back to defense again.

Chelsea’s Niamh Charles will be in strong contention, with her ability to play on either flank, while Aston Villa’s Maz Pacheco made the most interceptions (49) of any player in the WSL this season.

It all depends on whether Wiegman feels Greenwood, Carter and Daly would be a sufficient trio of left-backs, or whether another is needed because those three might all be playing in different positions.

Central midfield: Who will back up Walsh and Stanway?

Wiegman’s preferred pairing in the center of England’s midfield is world class: Barcelona’s Keira Walsh in the holding role and Bayern Munich’s Georgia Stanway slightly further advanced. But who will act as back-ups to that duo within the squad and offer fresh legs from the bench in World Cup games?

Manchester City’s Laura Coombs, Manchester United’s Katie Zelem and Aston Villa’s Jordan Nobbs are all in strong contention, but Wiegman might decide she doesn’t have space for all three of them in her 23. The absence of Fran Kirby, leaving Ella Toone as England’s most likely option to start at number 10, might give Nobbs more of a chance because of her more attacking qualities.

Aston Villa's Jordan Nobbs - Getty Images/Nathan Stirk

Aston Villa’s Jordan Nobbs – Getty Images/Nathan Stirk

Another name to throw into the mix is ​​Lucy Staniforth, who has been in impressive form for Aston Villa and would be capable of covering the more defensive duties needed from Walsh’s role.

Predicted Wiegman squad of 23:

Goalkeepers: Earps, Roebuck, Hampton
Defenders: Bronze, Bright, Greenwood, Carter, Le Tissier, Wubben-Moy, Charles, Morgan
Midfielders: Walsh, Stanway, Toone, Nobbs, Coombs, Park
Forwards: Russo, Daly, James, Kelly, Hemp, Robinson

On standby: Ramsey (gk), Parker, Parris, Salmon

Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 1 month, then enjoy 1 year for just $9 with our US-exclusive offer.