Lionesses head coach Sarina Wiegman cut a relaxed figure as she sat down in a busy media room in Terrigal to meet the English press ahead of today’s historic World Cup final with Spain, reports Catherine Etoe.
There were still 48 hours to go before the showpiece, but so great was the interest in this most successful of England managers that the coffee table in front of her almost groaned under the weight of recording devices.
It was to be expected, of course. Wiegman has taken England to an unprecedented second major tournament final and is on the brink of a personal fourth having previously steered the Netherlands to European gold and World Cup silver.
As we have come to expect, the 53-year-old was pragmatic when asked what that achievement meant to her, readily sharing the glory with her long-time assistant, former FC Twente boss Arjan Veurink, while focusing on what’s next.
“I’m very aware – together with Arjan because it’s his fourth too – that it is really special to make a final,” she said. “But then I switch to what we have to do because when you go to a final you want to win it. So everything now is focused on the game against Spain.”
And according to Wiegman, England are in a “very, very good place” as they look towards Sydney and a chance to add their name to a slender list of World Cup winners that includes the USA, Norway, Germany and Japan.
“We have grown into this tournament and the players feel very comfortable. The feel confident.”
“We have grown into this tournament and the players feel very comfortable,” she said. “They feel confident. We have recovered really well, we have everyone fit, so we are really ready to go.
“Everything now is Spain. When you’re so close – well, I have that a little bit anyway – but when you go to the next game, you’re only thinking ‘Okay, what’s next, what can we get in front of us, what challenges can we expect, how are we going to prepare the team?’
“We’re already working on that because we did the recovery and now we’re getting ready for Spain. And I don’t want to relax, I just want to get ready.”
No stranger to international football from a players’ perspective as a former Dutch centurion herself, Wiegman also spoke of her pride at the way her group has settled into the competition.
They came into this World Cup without key players from last summer’s Euro triumph such as Fran Kirby, Beth Mead and Leah Williamson, lost midfield maestro Keira Walsh for a spell and suspended Lauren James for two key knockout games.
“It has been really impressive how the team has responded to every challenge we’ve had,” she added. “It shows so much resilience, but also eagerness and conviction that we want to do well.”
A fresh challenge awaits in the form of Spain, who Wiegman and England overcame in extra time in the quarter finals of Euro 2022 on the way to lifting the trophy.
This is only the third all-European final in the history of the Women’s World Cup and the first in two decades.
And while they were bronze medalists in 2015, it is also the first time England has reached this world stage.
Typically, however, there is much chat about the men’s World Cup triumph of 1966 and the Lionesses head coach is well aware of the magnitude of this tie for fans back home.
“When we started working, September 2021, I felt that the country was so desperate to win a final in a tournament,” she said. “Everyone was saying that and the players too. I thought: it’s very real. So let’s be at our best on Sunday and try and be successful.”
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