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Leah Williamson has returned to the England squad after being absent since April of last year. Head coach Sarina Wiegman has stated that she intends to “experiment” with her team during the upcoming friendly matches against Austria and Italy later this month.
Williamson, a defender for Arsenal, served as captain for the Lionesses and led them to victory in Euro 2022. However, she was unable to participate in last year’s World Cup due to a nine-month-old anterior cruciate ligament injury.
Williamson takes the place of the injured Millie Bright in one of just two alterations from the 23-player squad in December. Jess Park, a midfielder for Manchester City, also joins the squad, replacing Manchester United’s Katie Zelem.
The Lionesses were unable to qualify for the Nations League finals in December. As a result, they will now focus on getting ready for the beginning of Euro 2025 qualifying. This will involve traveling to southern Spain and playing two friendly matches against Austria and Italy.
Wiegman has stated that Williamson is likely to resume her role as captain, but she will consult with her team before making a final decision. In the absence of both Williamson and Bright at the end of last year, goalkeeper Mary Earps led the team as captain.
The manager of the Lionesses expressed her happiness in having the 26-year-old included in her squad. She stated that it was a nice feeling, especially for the player, who has returned and is getting more playing time with Arsenal. The team is pleased with her progress and it will be great to have her back in camp next week.
“She’s a very good player, we’ve seen that too. Even though she’s been out for months, her decision making is really good even as she is still building. The team stepped up [without her] but it’s good to have her back.”
Bright, who has been sidelined with a knee injury since November, is expected to make a return in time for the start of Euro 2025 qualifying in April, according to Wiegman.
The Lionesses have not competed in a non-competitive game since the World Cup. Wiegman expressed excitement at the chance to “experiment with new ideas” as England prepares for Euro 2025.
Last year, the team that came in second at the World Cup suffered a major setback by failing to qualify for the Nations League finals and the Olympic Games, despite winning against the Netherlands and Scotland.
“We have two friendly matches in favorable weather and conditions,” Wiegman stated in preparation for our trip to Spain. “We have the opportunity to try new things.”
In December, it was a devastating situation. Our team performed amazingly in two games and we played at our best, but ultimately we cannot control the actions of our opponents.
“We were let down. However, we now have the chance to participate in friendly matches. It is important for us to remain proactive and continue to improve.”
Despite scoring 15 goals in her last 16 matches for Manchester United, Nikita Parris was not included in the squad due to lack of space.
According to Wiegman, there is tough competition in the front and the player didn’t play much during the fall. However, since the new year, she has been playing well in the nine position and we have definitely taken notice of that.
We recently had a conversation and I am hopeful that she will demonstrate reliability, as we are discussing her again. However, I have made different decisions for this camp.
Given the talent of our players, they have performed admirably, making this a tough decision.
I spoke with her during the autumn, which was a different scenario. Yesterday, we had a brief conversation where I explained a bit, and now that is the current situation.
“We have a strong pool of players in our forward positions, which makes it challenging for me to select the best team. Unfortunately, some players who have been performing exceptionally may not make the cut. However, she is currently able to play and is aware that we are closely monitoring her progress.”
The team selected by England for the upcoming friendly matches against Austria and Italy in February.
Goalkeepers: Mary Earps from Manchester United, Hannah Hampton from Chelsea, and Khiara Keating from Manchester City.
Defenders: Lucy Bronze (Barcelona), Jess Carter (Chelsea), Niamh Charles (Chelsea), Alex Greenwood (Manchester City), Maya Le Tissier (Manchester United), Esme Morgan (Manchester City), Leah Williamson (Arsenal), Lotte Wubben-Moy (Arsenal)
Midfielders: Grace Clinton (Tottenham Hotspur, loan from Manchester United), Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Jess Park (Manchester City), Georgia Stanway (Bayern Munich), Ella Toone (Manchester United), Keira Walsh (Barcelona)
Forwards: Rachel Daly (Aston Villa), Lauren Hemp (Manchester City), Lauren James (Chelsea), Chloe Kelly (Manchester City), Beth Mead (Arsenal), Alessia Russo (Arsenal)