Keira Walsh has said England want to “put things right” against the Netherlands on Friday night, after a 3-2 defeat against Belgium in their previous Nations League match dented their hopes of Olympic qualification for Team GB.
“We want to put the things right that weren’t so good in the Belgium game and, yes, it’s going to be a difficult game for us,” Walsh said. “We know it’s a must-win, but I’m hoping that we can show the resilient side to us, and character, and put in a performance.”
The Lionesses must win both of their remaining Nations League fixtures, against the Netherlands at Wembley and then Scotland at Hampden Park on Tuesday, and hope Belgium drop points to reach the finals of the tournament.
In back-to-back games against Belgium last month, England created plenty of chances but struggled to convert. “All the stats are still in our favour,” Walsh said.
“We created a lot of chances. We had a lot of ball possession in the final third. I think it was maybe just a slight lack of concentration at times. It happens and most of the time you don’t get punished, but it was just one of those games where we did. But let’s not catastrophise it; it wasn’t the worst game in the world for us, and although the result might look like that I think there were still a lot of positives to take from it.”
England will be without their World Cup captain, Millie Bright, who has withdrawn from the camp with a knee injury, and Walsh said the rest of the team would step up as a result. “It’s up to the group as a whole, when there are certain players missing,” she said.
“We’ve still got a lot of quality within the team but it’s [important that] as a group we all step up and we all take a little bit more leadership and a little bit more responsibility. That’s the whole point of having a squad, it’s that we trust in everyone.”
Walsh has had injury troubles of her own. The midfielder was taken off on a stretcher in England’s 1-0 group stage win against Denmark at the World Cup, missing the final group game against China. She was also absent for the start of the season with Barcelona, and missed England’s first two Nations League games, with a calf injury. Now, she is feeling good. “Someone sent me a thing the other day that said I’d played the second-most games in Europe, and I think naturally that’s going to take a toll on your body,” the 26-year-old said.
“Obviously that’s potentially a factor of why I got injured at the start of the season. But I did my rehab, the club looked after me, England have looked after me, and we’ve had a camp since then and a lot of games in between. So I’m feeling good, I’m feeling fresh, and that was my little break to now go on and push on this season.”
The possibility of England ending up in a relegation playoff instead of going through to the finals is not one on which they are focusing. “We don’t really want to dwell on that too much,” Walsh said.
“We know we need to win these games and Sarina [Wiegman, England’s manager] is not in a negative mindset. She always tries to make everything really positive and tries to make it competitive. It’s nice, it takes the pressure off the bad things. When we started camp it was: ‘Two wins, we want to go to an Olympics. We want to make sure we do everything right to get there.’’’
Should England beat the Netherlands and Belgium drop points then their chances of progressing would be determined by the final group game against Scotland. With England needing to reach the final to ensure a place at the Olympics for Team GB, that will see Scotland players with hopes of making the team for Paris 2024 potentially ending that chance.
“It is a little bit strange that we’re playing against them and then if we do win these games we could be playing together,” Walsh said. “But, if I’m putting myself in their shoes, it’s a big game against England, a derby game, they’re not going to be thinking about that. They’re going to want to win and so do we.”