Wiegman: Lionesses have gone from hunters to hunted

Sarina Wiegman believes England have gone from hunters to hunted in the lead-up to the 2023 World Cup.

Off the back of their historic European Championship victory, the Lionesses jumped to fourth in the FIFA World Rankings and now have a target on their back going into next year’s tournament in Australia and New Zealand. 

England have always been a prized scalp and Wiegman recognises the added pressure of playing as European champions.

She said: “I don’t know why, but when I came in, I noticed already that all the countries wanted to beat England.  

“But now, when you’re European champion everyone wants to chase you. 

“Of course, we are used to that and we want to just perform to the highest level we can and when we are connected as a team and play our best game then we can beat all the countries. 

“I think the world has changed for [the team], they’ve had so many experiences. So it’s really nice to meet up with the team again and get ready for the qualification games.” 

With the retirement of legendary Lionesses Ellen White and Jill Scott in the past week, the newly-chosen World Cup qualifiers squad sports five changes.

England will seek a point away against Austria next week to directly qualify for 2023 before facing Luxembourg at a sold out Stoke City stadium on September 6th.

Wiegman has lost two of the biggest names in football from her squad but believes this will create the chance for a new wave of leadership.

She said: “They we’re such big personalities and have such a big impact on the team.

“But I do think that’s where we always saw during the summer with Leah as captain.

“That she grew in her role so well and she collaborated with the whole team and also with Jill and Ellen and the more experienced members of the team.

“I think now the dynamics of the team will change of course but I also think it will stabilise over the next camps.

“It also gives the opportunity for new players to step up and become leaders in the team.”

But after a summer of success, the Lionesses are not growing complacent and will settle for nothing less than a win on their return to action.

She said: “It’s absolutely amazing what happened with the team this summer.

“If I think back from when I started last year, what we’ve done within the season and especially in the Euros this summer, it’s just incredible.

“It is a little bit like a fairy tale, of course expectations were high and you hope that things go well but the hopes became truths.

“But now there’s one focus when we come in next week and that’s qualifying for the World Cup.” 

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