Even just a year on from winning Euro 2022, the team that starts England’s opening game of the 2023 Women’s World Cup against Haiti on 22 July is set to be substantially different.
The Lionesses have bid farewell to both Ellen White and Jill Scott since last summer, with both decidiing to call time on their respective careers at the absolute pinnacle. White has since given birth to her first child, while Scott has transitioned into mainstream celebrity.
Others like Ella Toone, Alessia Russo and Chloe Kelly, all of whom were regulars off the bench at the Euros, are likely to have slightly different roles, while Rachel Daly has literally changed position.
But there a handful of players missing who would have been a big part of Engand’s strongest team.
Beth Mead won top scorer and best player awards at Euro 2022, finding the net six times en-route to the Lionesses lifting their first major international trophy. But the star forward, who finished second in the Ballon d’Or Feminin standings, ruptured her ACL during a game for Arsenal in November.
That injury was far enough out from the World Cup that it gave the slightest glimmer of hope she might recover in time to go to Australia. But seven months would be a pretty quick rehab and England boss Sarina Wiegman admitted in late March that she isn’t planning for Mead’s inclusion.
The player herself has other ideas for now, refusing to believe that her World Cup chance is off the table: “It’s not given me a solid no, but [Wiegman] hasn’t said yes either. She is preparing for a World Cup without me, but I could still be picked. And miracles do happen.”
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Leah Williamson became a household name off the back of Euro 2022, leading the Lionesses on the pitch but additionally furthering the women’s game so much off it as well. She was a ringleader in lobbying the government to commit to equal access to sport in schools and topped the 2023 edition of the BBC Woman’s Hour Power List.
Aside from the captaincy, Williamson’s versatility has been a great asset to Wiegman’s England over the last couple of years, capable of playing in the centre of defence or midfield. But the Lionesses will have to find a way to cope without her instead.
Like Mead, Williamson suffered an ACL injury in action for Arsenal. She went over following an inocuous challenge but immediately seemed to know something was seriously wrong by the way she beat the turf in front of her in frustration. Days later, the severity was confirmed.
Fran Kirby was a doubt for Euro 2022 due to the fatigue problem that prematurely ended her 2021/22 club season with Chelsea. The attacking maestro had played her last club game in February of that campaign, before being ruled out in April for the ‘foreseeable future’.
She won her race against the clock that time, making it onto the bench for Chelsea’s FA Cup final win and getting a place in the England squad – she even started every game at the tournament. But, with injury again affecting her club season, Kirby hasn’t been able to make it in 2023.
A knee problem suffered in February has required surgery. “I have been trying my best to not have to undergo this but unfortunately my progress has been limited due to the issue in my knee,” she said.
England have a handful of other important players who are not ruled out of the World Cup but are currently sidelined because of injury.
Millie Bright hasn’t played for Chelsea since being forced off in the first half of their Champions League quarter-final first leg in late March. Her return to action isn’t imminent, but Blues boss Emma Hayes has said she is ‘sure’ the defender will be available for the World Cup.
Barcelona right-back Lucy Bronze is another who should be fine by the summer. The 31-year-old underwent ‘successful’ knee surgery at the end of April and expected to be out of action for a couple of weeks. That should mean she is back long before the World Cup, unless there are complications.