Sports FOOTBALL Louise Taylor Wigman turns England into ruthless rivals

Louise Taylor Wigman turns England into ruthless rivals


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Sarina Wigman seems to have a particular fondness for repeating two words: ruthlessness and execution.

The England manager invariably uses these favorites in his proposals, urging his players to be more attacking, but none of these characteristics are alien to a woman who is rarely prone to hesitation in indecision, not to mention sentimentality. Wigman’s icy clarity under pressure convinced her to ignore some emotionally compelling reasons for including former England captain Steph Houghton in her 23-strong Euro 2022 squad.

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In an apparently difficult conversation on Wednesday, Phil Neville’s successor told the 34-year-old Manchester City center midfielder that her recovery from an Achilles tendon injury was not advanced enough to justify inclusion in that elite group and she failed to do so. final cut.

“The girls feel the pain that Steph will feel,” Lea Williamson, England’s new captain, said ahead of the match against Belgium at Molineux. “We share it.”

At 25, Williamson is a young captain, but her maturity, eloquence and sheer emotional intelligence suggest Wigman has chosen a worthy successor to Houghton. Importantly, Williamson is also an adaptable player, well suited to the rotation of positions in the game that her national manager is gradually instilling.

Primarily a defender at Arsenal, she settled into her role as a midfielder for England and made an impression that evening when she not only forced a Nicky Evrard own goal, but often nimbly stepped back to replace a right-back when Lucy Bronze marauded forward over it. flank.

With the Belgian side unbeaten in the previous seven games and managing to isolate the usually powerful Kira Walsh in central midfield, the English were initially most dangerous on the flanks. If Bronze’s last ball sometimes let her down, and at times she seemed too indifferent to creating troubling gaps in the defense by overly immersing herself in the attack, she was instrumental in Chloe Kelly preempting the first own goal with a strong deflected shot. On the other hand, Lauren Hemp’s left-handed play constantly drove Belgium crazy.

If England finally wins the tournament next month, Cannabis will surely have a lot to do with it. Along with Chelsea’s Fran Kirby, the Manchester City winger is arguably one of Wigman’s two truly world-class players.

England celebrate their third goal against Belgium as they continue to gain momentum ahead of the Euro. Photograph: Mark Atkins/Getty Images

Kirby has been sidelined for months due to a fatigue-related illness, but she is finally back in shape and her significance is such that the attacking playmaker who connects the dots between the front line and midfield will always be questioned even by the most stubborn manager.

Sure enough, Kirby was introduced in the second half when Manchester City’s Kelly, fresh from a serious knee injury, returned to the right of the top three, where she suggested she could push Beth Mead very hard into the starting slot. .

World No. 20 Belgium won’t be the last team to sit deep and choke the Lionesses’ midfield, so it’s no surprise that Wigman urges Millie Bright to try their luck picking Kelly, Cannabis and top ball company. from the central half.

The coach who led the Dutch national team to victory at Euro 2017 is, unlike Neville, a pragmatist who is not afraid to aim for perfectionism, combining intricate short passes with overtly direct tactics. The typical introduction of her other half by Alex Greenwood, a centre-back looking to get out of defense, finally freed Walsh.

It’s no surprise that Rachel Daley’s versatility appeals to the England manager. Shortly after Daly came on as a substitute as a left-back, a remarkably confident second-goal volley reminded everyone that, of the various positions she’s mastered, the striker may be her forte.

Daly, like Kirby and Kelly, was in contention for a starting spot on a team that won 10 games, drew two, and scored 75 goals in front of Wigman. Significantly tougher tests beckon, but so far this managerial ruthlessness is working.

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