Sarina Wiegman has put the Lionesses within reach of making history
ENGLAND WORLD CUP FINAL PREVIEW: Sarina Wiegman may be yet to master English’s quirky idioms but the manager’s understanding of her Lionesses has put them within reach of making history
- The Dutch manager feels ‘more English’ after two years at the helm of her side
- England will contest first-ever World Cup final on Sunday after an unbeaten run
- WATCH: Wiegman CAN’T recall Lauren James , Mail Sport’s Chris Sutton says
Sarina Wiegman has mastered most things in football – winning matches, making finals, lifting trophies. But when it comes to English quirks and idioms, she is still working it out.
In her pre-match press conference before England’s round of 16 game, Wiegman was asked whether the ‘cat was out of the bag’ in regards to Lauren James – who had starred in the previous win. A puzzled Wiegman asked: ‘Sorry?’ before bursting into laughter.
But as she prepares to lead the Lionesses into a first ever World Cup final, the Dutch-born coach says she is starting to feel ‘more English’.
‘I think so (feel English),’ Wiegman laughs. ‘I tried to learn a little bit more about the English, the sayings sometimes are a problem, so I’m trying to learn a little bit more!’
There is a greater understanding, too, of English characteristics and personalities. Wiegman is known for being direct and to the point, a trait she admits is ‘very Dutch’.
Sarina Wiegman may not have the firmest grip on English idioms but she is starting to feel ‘more English’ after two years in charge
The Dutch manager will lead a national team to a World Cup final for the second time in her career on Sunday
In 2022, Wiegman ended the ‘years of hurt’ with her capture of the European Championship
It is something her players say they enjoy but that they have also had to adapt to.
‘I do think that…yeah, (I understand the people a bit more) but English people are very polite and sometimes you go: “OK, are you now being polite or are you really saying what you mean?”
‘And that’s sometimes finding a balance, because you don’t have to be rude to be direct, so I ask the players and the staff, you can be honest, it doesn’t mean that you’re rude. Just be direct.
‘You can just say what you think and still be very respectful.’
Wiegman started her job with the Lionesses in September 2021. There was a great expectation that she could be the woman to end ‘56 years of hurt’, which she did by winning the Euros. Ahead of a World Cup final there is obvious talk around 1966. As a foreign manager in a new country, it would be easy for Wiegman to think everyone is mad.
‘I don’t hear it that much because I get out of the noise, but I know it’s there,’ Wiegman says.
‘When we started working, September 2021, I felt that the country was so desperate to win a final in a tournament. Everyone was saying that and the players too.
‘I thought: “It’s very real.” If you want to win it too much… so what do we have to do? What do we have to do to win and how can we win?
‘To get the results, stop talking about the result because we know what we want. I heard again: “1966”. Everyone’s talking about 1966. So let’s be at our best on Sunday and try and be successful.
‘Football is so big in England, it’s so in the culture. That’s incredible to experience. It’s so big. It’s everywhere. That’s pretty cool too.’
Wiegman has been the key to the Lionesses success in the last two years but this World Cup has presented a number of challenges the Euros did not.
How to reintegrate Lauren James is one of the challenges Wiegman will face before Sunday
England were able to reshape themselves after the injury of Keira Walsh – but she is fit again
Three key players, Beth Mead, Fran Kirby and captain Leah Williamson were ruled out of the tournament through injury. She had to fight with clubs to get them to agree to release their players in time for when she wanted to start her pre-camp at St George’s Park. There was a bonus row between the squad and the Football Association, which became public before the team flew to Australia and is still unresolved.
Keira Walsh, who was viewed as England’s most important player, suffered what looked to be a serious knee injury in the second game against Denmark. In the round of 16 her top scorer Lauren James was sent off for stepping on an opponent. England then had to face hostile crowds in their quarter-final with Colombia and semi-final against Australia. Nothing has been easy, but Wiegman has found a way to win.
She now faces another dilemma – whether she brings James back into the starting XI or keeps Ella Toone, who scored in the semi-final victory. Toone had not been at her best in this tournament before her rocket against Australia, but after that goal and her performance it would be incredibly harsh to drop her.
What is certain is that Wiegman will make the decision she feels is best for the team. She will not bring sentiment into the equation.
It says something when other managers speak of Wiegman in such high regard. Former US coach Jill Ellis praised Wiegman’s tactical nous earlier in the tournament while Australia boss Tony Gustavasson said it was no surprise she was the last female manager standing at this World Cup.
But it was Chelsea boss Emma Hayes who yesterday summed up perfectly what Wiegman has brought to English football.
‘Everybody in England was aware this is a golden generation and they just needed the right leader, which we have,’ Hayes said.
Emma Hayes praised her peer, calling her ‘the right leader’ for England’s golden generation
The manager’s connection with her players could see them reap deserved rewards in two days
‘Sarina has the experience, the charisma and the qualities to deliver winning football matches at the highest level.
‘The thing is there’s an expectation but we’re OK with that. We like being in this position and I’m sure the players are excited they are to be here. Winning the World Cup would mean everything to them and to those back home.’
Wiegman knows how big Sunday’s game is. This is the best chance an England team has ever had of winning a World Cup and it could be the best they will ever have.
‘We have grown into this tournament and the players feel very comfortable, they feel confident,’ the England manager said yesterday. Wiegman is the woman who can lead them to glory. If she wins again on Sunday the cat will be well and truly out of the bag.
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