On eve of Lionesses’ battle: ‘Thanks for the wonderful support’ | Football | Sport


The Lionesses’ head coach has promised England fans they will “do everything to make you proud on and off the pitch”.

And grateful Sarina Wiegman has thanked fans for their “wonderful support” during their World Cup campaign in Australia.

The team plays Nigeria at 8.30am UK time in Brisbane on Monday, in a tough last-16 knockout tie, having won all their games so far.

Sarina took over as England’s women head coach in 2021. And last year, the 53-year-old led the Lionesses to glory at the Euros when they beat Germany 2-1 at Wembley in front of a record-breaking 87,000 crowd.

Speaking to the Sunday Express ahead of the side’s latest crunch match, the former Netherlands boss said: “Whether you are one of the millions of fans cheering us at home or one of the ­thousands who have made the long trip out to Australia, we all feel your wonderful support.

“Having the fans behind us every time we play is so important and we never take it for granted.

“In return, I can promise we will continue to do everything to make you proud on and off the pitch.”

Nigeria, who are in their ninth World Cup, played well beyond their world number 40 ranking for a win and two draws to finish ­second in Group B. They will provide tough opposition for an England team led by captain Millie Bright that only came to life during their 6-1 hammering of China in the final match of the group stage.

Defensive powerhouse Millie, 29, hopes the Lionesses will keep up their momentum and see off the African side. Midfielder
Katie Zelem said England need to stick to their game plan to avoid being the latest casualty in a tournament that has seen some major upsets.

Some of the biggest shocks so far have been Canada and two-time champions Germany crashing out in the group stage.

“We know that every opposition we come up against have worked so hard to be there and deserve a place,” Manchester United star Katie said.

“It’s been about executing our game plan.”

The 27-year-old added: “It’s the first World Cup where the teams have been expanded [from 24 to 32] and I think it shows it was the right decision. There really is that quality in the lower-ranked sides. Every nation has worked so hard and it’s really showing.”

Katie made her World Cup debut for England in that stunning victory over China on Tuesday, as a replacement for crocked midfielder Keira Walsh. The Barcelona star, 26, injured her knee in the Lionesses’ 1-0 win over Denmark and it is unclear whether she will play further in the competition.

The squad is also missing three other key players due to knee injuries – captain Leah Williamson, Euro 2022 Golden Boot winner Beth Mead, and Fran Kirby.

Asked how intense the games and training have been so far, midfielder Katie said her side’s camaraderie makes it easier. “There are players who have grown up together, who have played together at club level,” she said.

“You can see the impact they make and we want to strive for the best as a group.”

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