England boss Sarina Wiegman backs World Cup qualification changes if women’s game benefits

In charge: Sarina Wiegman  (The FA via Getty Images)
In charge: Sarina Wiegman (The FA via Getty Images)

England head coach Sarina Wiegman has backed calls to change the qualification process for major tournaments in women’s football.

The Lionesses have already qualified for next year’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, and they can finish qualifying with a 100 per cent record at Stoke tonight.

England beat opponents Luxembourg, who are ranked 117th in the world, 10-0 in the reverse fixture and defeated Latvia 20-0 in an earlier qualifier.

Such huge victories have led to calls for qualifying for major tournaments to be altered to ensure they remain competitive.

Asked if she would like to see things change in the future, Wiegman said: “We talked about this before. I think we need to make changes if it’s better for the development of the women’s game.

“I think sometimes a bigger score is okay, but when that’s all the time, you must ask: is that good for the team that loses that much, and for the team that wins that much?

“Then, you might want to make some changes for the benefit of the game in both countries. I think that discussion has been going on for a while, also [with] UEFA and FIFA, so we’ll see where that brings us.”

Tonight’s match is England’s first on home soil since they won Euro 2022 this summer. The Lionesses’ success has led to a boom in ticket sales, with tonight’s game at the Bet365 Stadium sold out and drawing a crowd of just over 30,000.

After beating Austria 2-0 on Saturday to secure qualification, Wiegman is expected to make changes tonight, and Chelsea’s Lauren James could make her first start.

“It will be 30,000 coming to watch us, so we really want to show again our game and make a little celebration,” said Wiegman. “The support of the fans was great in the Euros, but they keep coming now.”

Meanwhile, Wales are looking to join England at the World Cup, and they will qualify for the play-offs if they can secure a point at home to Slovenia tonight.

Wales have never qualified for a major tournament before, and the Cardiff City Stadium is expected to have over 10,000 fans in tonight, more than double the previous record.

“We know the fans will play a huge part,” said Wales manager Gemma Grainger. “We need a point but we’re going to prepare to win the game — we wouldn’t have any other approach.”