Ruthless Sarina Wiegman not afraid of big calls as England Women step up European Championship prep

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Ruthless Sarina Wiegman not afraid of big calls as England Women step up European Championship prep
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Following an afternoon of talking yesterday, England Women boss Sarina Wiegman will be pleased matters on the pitch are the topic of conversation tonight.

Wiegman’s decision to leave out Steph Houghton from her final squad for this summer’s Euros was the major talking point yesterday, with the former Lionesses captain’s exclusion taking many by surprise.

History has shown us, however, that Wiegman is not afraid of making big calls. During the last Euros, when Wiegman was managing hosts Holland, she dropped her captain Mandy van den Berg two games in, instead opting to play Stefanie van der Gragt.

“That was difficult,” Wiegman told Dutch magazine Voetbal International at the time. “But disappointing people is inherent in top sport. With every choice you make, one is happy and one disappointed. That’s my job.”

Wiegman has had to be similarly ruthless with Houghton, 34. She brings over 120 caps’ worth of experience, representing England at five major tournaments, and she has played a huge role in growing the women’s game.

However, she has not played since January, due to an Achilles problem, and centre-back is one area where England have strength in depth. Wiegman said of her decision to drop Houghton: “It was hard, but I think she is just not ready to compete. It’s just a matter of time and we don’t have that time.”

England are entering the final stages of their Euros preparation tonight, when they play Belgium at Molineux in the first of three warm-up games over the next two weeks. Wiegman has named her 23-player squad and now it is about nailing down her XI for England’s tournament opener, against Austria, on July 6.

England boss Sarina Wiegman left Steph Houghton out of her squad for the Women’s Euros (Getty Images)
England boss Sarina Wiegman left Steph Houghton out of her squad for the Women’s Euros (Getty Images)

Whether Houghton was in or out was always going to be a talking point, but the rest of the squad has offered little surprises. Wiegman cut five players from her initial squad and they had played a combined total of just 46 minutes during her 11 games in charge. The squad looks stacked with attacking talent, with England having named more forwards than midfielders. Among those six midfielders are Ella Toone and Fran Kirby, who are arguably forwards, too.

Midfield is the one area England look a little light. Captain Leah Williamson, who has been pushed forward from defence, and Keira Walsh will start there, with Jill Scott and Georgia Stanway the alternatives.

Scott has been struggling with injury and Wiegman could have dropped a forward to keep Katie Zelem or Lucy Staniforth in the squad. She opted to pick another attacker. Yet another brave decision that shows she is not afraid of making big calls.

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