Sarina Wiegman played down talk of England being the best team in the world after beating the reigning world champions, the USA.
A penalty from Georgia Stanway after Sophia Smith had cancelled out Lauren Hemp’s opener earned the European champions a 2-1 win against the team that beat them in the semi-finals of the last World Cup. “You are the best team in the world when you have won the World Cup. We haven’t,” said Wiegman. “We are in a good place, but there are so many good countries.”
The England manager did concede that her side had proved they “can beat anyone”, though. “We just have to do what we can, control, stick together and communicate with each other at all times,” she said. “We need to have the freedom to make our own choices in the game. I think we are doing well in that.”
Wiegman added: “We believe a little more. I think in the Euros we really showed we could beat anyone, but it was still very close. There is a thin line between winning and losing. We could bring on something to win against the best opponent and that’s what we showed again today, that’s what brings confidence.”
Her opposite number, Vlatko Andonovski, was more emphatic about England’s World Cup chances in Australia and New Zealand next summer. “Absolutely, I believe that,” he said when asked if England were contenders. “They have an incredible squad and they showed once again they are very good. If you give them space they have players who can make a difference. They have an incredible coach and I wouldn’t mind facing them again in the final.
“They were very well organised, physical and well coached. That’s why we came here; to experience that.”
With a number of players out injured, Andonovski’s side had a youthful look. “[We have] a fairly young squad that needed to see this and go through those tough moments to hopefully learn from it,” he said.
“I think this game was very important in our preparation for the World Cup. We wanted enough time to fix areas we got exposed in. We came here to experience a good opponent, adversity and a hostile environment – we got that.”
The USA head coach said he was extremely moved by the show of solidarity between players ahead of kick-off at Wembley. All players took to the field wearing teal armbands and both teams stood united behind a “Protect the players” banner after the Sally Yates report found emotional and sexual abuses to be “systemic” within women’s domestic football in the US.
“It was a very special moment when the players got together and had the banner in front of them,” he said. “It gave me goose bumps to see the support from the fans that applauded that moment. I thought that was incredible. It was a statement that we have to stop sexual violence. Once again, the players did an incredible job of using this game, this event, as a platform to fight against it.
“Obviously it was an extremely difficult week for everybody, I’m proud of the players to even be on the field to play the game. It wasn’t easy. I applaud their bravery, their fearless mentality and relentlessness. Once again, they showed that nothing can stop them from playing the game they love. I hope they never have to go through it again.”
Wiegman added it was “very important” for her team to express their support for their peers. “It’s very horrible that these situations occur. Of course, for the victims it’s horrible and it should stop. People are speaking up and it’s very strong. We need to make sure things are going to change and won’t happen any more. The timing is now. We used this momentum to spread the word that it is unacceptable it’s happening.”