Wiegman waits to see if she can be pitchside for England’s clash with Spain

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The Guardian

Sarina Wiegman faces a nervous wait to see if she will test negative for Covid in time to be in the technical area for England’s Euro 2022 quarter-final against Spain on Wednesday night.

The Lionesses’ manager said she was “very hopeful” of being at the game in Brighton but emphasised that her presence is not imperative. “I’m feeling well, I’m ready to go but I still have to wait,” said Wiegman, who missed England’s 5-0 win against Northern Ireland in their final Group A match after testing positive.

“I’m very hopeful but we’ll see. We know if I can’t be there I’ll be around in another way. The work flow with my technical staff is so fluent, everyone knows what to do.”

Last Friday the former Netherlands head coach was in constant contact with her assistant, Arjan Veurink, via an open phone line. “We stayed connected all the time,” Wiegman said. “If necessary, that’s what we’ll do again against Spain. We just have to adapt. We can be efficient in different ways.”

Having had only mild symptoms lasting one day – “it wasn’t too bad, I had a little temperature and a little cough” – Wiegman has been involved in every outdoor training session since her diagnosis, albeit from a socially distanced vantage point and while wearing a mask. Meanwhile, indoor tactical debriefs have taken place virtually.

Despite England having tightened the rules for those visiting their base at a resort hotel in south west London – anyone entering the “bubble” must be tested for Covid and some are being asked to wear masks – their third-choice goalkeeper, Hannah Hampton, also recorded a positive result on Tuesday. Hampton apart, the remainder of the squad are available for selection.

“It’s not the worst nightmare, but Covid is just a situation we have to deal with,” Wiegman said. “We want to be successful so we have to stay in our bubble and be very careful. It’s very unfortunate, you don’t want this, but it [Covid] is very invisible. Everyone has to take responsibility and tell us if they don’t feel well.”

Spain’s capacity to pass and move between the lines makes Jorge Vilda’s possession-dominating side an elusive opponent, but Wiegman suggested England will not be modifying their approach, one that saw them score 14 goals and concede none across their three group stage victories over Austria, Norway and Northern Ireland.

“Don’t expect too many changes,” said Wiegman, who led her native Netherlands to Euro 2017 glory. “They [Spain] are a very good team and will probably have the ball a lot but I hope we do too. We’re also a very good team. We’re pretty comfortable on the ball so I’m excited to see how it will go in Brighton.

“It’s all about using our strengths and exploiting their weaknesses. Spain have such an attacking style of play so we know there’ll be spaces. We know our plan but we also know we haven’t won anything yet. The standard of games at the Euros is high; we’re not the only favourite.”

Wiegman, whose side are unbeaten since her appointment as England manager last September, endorsed the Guardian columnist and former England international Anita Asante’s call for increased diversity within the Lionesses’ camp. “I hope in the future we’ll get more diversity in the national team,” said the 52-year-old, whose 23-member squad has three black players. “The FA has set strategies to get more diversity but that’s for the long term. For now, I just pick the best players, I don’t care whether they’re black or white.”

Keira Walsh has confirmed that Phil Neville’s successor is similarly unconcerned about players misplacing ambitious passes as they endeavour to implement her attacking approach on the pitch. “Sarina’s not going to shout at us or belittle us for making mistakes,” the England midfield anchor said. “She knows that’s part of the game. Sarina’s always encouraging us to play forwards but she takes the pressure off. She’s also very meticulous, very straight talking and to the point. You know where you stand with her. She’s no nonsense.

“In the past we probably talked too much about how good other teams and players were in meetings and that does get into your head a little bit. But, to Sarina, it’s about what we do. We’re not doubting Spain’s ability but tonight/Wednesday night is about our style.”

July 19, 2022 at 09:40PM Louise Taylor

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