England Women take on Northern Ireland in a 2023 World Cup qualifier at Wembley on Saturday before travelling to face Latvia on Tuesday; Sarina Wiegman’s side top their qualification group after comfortable wins over North Macedonia and Luxembourg
By Rory O'Callaghan
Friday 22 October 2021 16:02, UK
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England Women head coach Sarina Wiegman says she is not yet ready to name a permanent captain and needs more time to assess her options.
Arsenal defender Leah Williamson captained the Lionesses in last month’s World Cup qualifying wins over North Macedonia and Luxembourg in the absence of injured team-mate Steph Houghton.
Wiegman has confirmed Williamson will keep the armband for England’s next two qualifiers against Northern Ireland at Wembley on Saturday and Latvia on Tuesday.
But the England boss says she needs more time to choose a permanent skipper, with Houghton and Lucy Bronze both still unavailable through injury.
The Dutchwoman, who took up her role last month, said: “(I’m) not close yet. I think Leah (Williamson) has done very well. She plays well, she’s very good in the group, so she does a very good job.
“But we haven’t had Steph (Houghton) and Lucy Bronze in our group and they’ve captained this team before.
“So we’ll just take a little time and, when everyone is fit, performs well, comes in the squads, then I can see how everyone relates and what’s best for the team.”
England and Northern Ireland are two of three teams in their group alongside Austria that have a 100 per cent record after two qualifying matches.
England beat Northern Ireland 6-0 in a friendly in February but Wiegman sees Saturday’s match as a step up.
She said: “I expect a harder game than we had last month. I think we’ll still be the team that will have possession lots of the time.
“Obviously it’s very nice to play at Wembley and to have a big crowd so we’re really looking forward to it.
“Northern Ireland has qualified for the Euros for the first time, which is really good. They have been in transition a little bit. I’m really excited to get to the game tomorrow.”
This will be England’s first match at Wembley since more than 70,000 fans turned up for a friendly defeat by Germany two years ago, and their first competitive game since the stadium reopened in 2007.
And Williamson hopes it is a sign of things to come, saying: “It’s maybe something we thought would happen a bit more frequently following on from the Germany game so for it to finally come back around and it to be the first competitive fixture I think is a milestone for us.
“Hopefully the performance will match the occasion. I think it’s the right time. I think the women’s game’s got to that level where we can bring the people in to see it.
“It’s a good day for us as players, it helps us grow, and for the country as a whole I don’t know why we wouldn’t want to celebrate high-performance sport on the biggest stage.”
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