#FIFAWWC2023 Group D Match 1: What Wiegman had to say after ENGLAND 1-0 HAITI

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – JULY 22: Sarina Wiegman, Head Coach of England, speaks during post match press conference following the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 Group D match between England and Haiti at Brisbane Stadium on July 22, 2023 in Brisbane / Meaanjin, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

The European Champions did not produce a vintage performance in their opening fixture of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 but they did earn the three points and to state the obvious (and repeat what we’ve all been saying to quieten any nagging concerns) – the results is all that matters. In fact, no side yet has really hit the ground running in terms of fluid football (other than perhaps Japan), nor have they utilised set-pieces or found the quality in the final third but teams will keep working and those things will come. Which is sort of what Sarina Wiegman – who looked slightly annoyed on the sidelines on occasion – calmly asserted in the post-match press conference. She also had praise for the positive and athletic performance of debutants Haiti. Here’s some of what she had to say…

On whether the team were ‘ready’ for the opening game:
We played a very hard game. We were absolutely ready but I think they played a very good game too. So, as we expected, they played unpredictable, very direct, very strong and on the counter attack. And that’s what they showed tonight. And what we wanted to do is of course, be on the ball all the time and we were on the ball a lot. We created chances again but we also had moments that we lost the ball a little quicker and and they were really quick in their counter attack. So that was pretty hard for us.

On the Haiti players simply being faster than some of the England team (as commented on by Player of the Match Georgia Stanway):
Yeah. I wasn’t on the pitch, but that’s what it looked like and that’s how I think the players experienced it too. They were really quick and very athletic and we had to play a little quicker to stay out of the duels because they were physical too. So lots of credit to Haiti for their first time at a World Cup and having a performance like that. I think the other two countries are going to really struggle with them. But that of course, is not our problem. I’m just really happy that we got the win and we have the first three points in a very hard game.

On whether England perhaps looked a little bit rusty, a little slow to start:
Slow to start though on the other hand, we could have scored very early in the game. That would have made it easier. We said at halftime we wanted to speed up the game, in the build up, faster, higher speed of the ball, the tempo needs to be higher. There were opportunities when quicker to play to the first press while they dropped a little deeper. But then when the press developed, play through that first pass on the sides and there was also an opportunity to play into Russo because they man marked pretty tough, so that’s just what we tried to do. We got some rhythm in the second half and then it’s like okay, now now we did John’s or you could feel that maybe the second goal would come but then they had a very dangerous counter attack again. So then that took us out of our rhythm. And although all these things I think when we got the penalty to resilience, we showed the right time the first half playing little better in the second half and get the win at the end. I think that shows really what we want to do.

On what it was that made her go with Alessia Russo as the number 9:
That has been a very hard choice and I think you all talk about Alessia and Rachel [Daly] but Bethany England is in form, all the data showing on training sessions is really good. It has been a hard decision. What we have done is looked at this last period, but also looked at what they had done in competition, and they got their minutes, and at the end, I made a decision.

On going three and a half games without scoring from open play (and 21 shots in this game) – what is the bit that is missing:
I would say ruthlessness. It’s easy to say, so what does that mean? ‘Ruthlessness’? Sometimes the connections with the cross, the timing of the cross, where the cross actually ends in the penalty box. Then the connection in front of the goal, little things like that. I think we were very close a couple of times to scoring a goal and then of course, their defence was tough too. So we just keep trying, keep working on it and starting tomorrow again.

On what they learned from players in the game, going forwards in the tournament:
Well, what we always talk about is our style of play and then our game plan against the opponent. We will play a different match against Denmark. It’s [Denmark’s] a different style of play, although I do think they will drop deep a little more and start from a very organised defence, a little more predictable.
I think the learning we took from the first and second half is we need to keep the ball moving quicker and have less touches… so wanting to move the ball better and what I just said some the rotations on the sides. What I think we did a little bit better the second half. Keep trying, keep creating chances, and we had lots of crosses and get a little more quality from the crosses to make the chance of scoring even higher.

On Haiti paying close attention to Kiera Walsh and potentially other sides doing it in the competition:
We’ve seen that all the time, of course that they tried to take her out. I think the second half she got a little more space but I don’t think that it was we couldn’t find her all the time. But there were opportunities on the sides and I think we could have done that a little quicker.

On there being 45,000 people there for their opening game and the England support, as well as the attendances over the first few days of the tournament:
It’s really exciting. First of all, this seems very nice. Very nice to play here. Before we started I said to my assistant, it feels almost like we play in England because there’s so much noise when it’s about us. That’s pretty special when you play on the other side of the world, but you also you already saw it in the city. It’s very special to be here.


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